Last month a friend called and asked for a quick consult on STI testing. I ran down a list of STIs I thought were relevant: Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, HIV, and herpes, HPV if insurance covered the more expensive and slightly more accurate test. "What about syphilis?" my friend asked, and I felt a little silly for having left it off the list, but (despite the outbreak in season two of Grey's Anatomy) rates of syphilis dropped enormously over the course of the 20th century, and generally speaking it's not something many people need to worry about.
But according to this Washington Post article, rates have been on the rise again in the past three years in Virginia and DC. The article alludes to outbreaks occurring in the gay male community, but the jump in numbers is alarming no matter who you're sleeping with: in the District, it went from a record low 38 reported cases in 2003 to 115 cases in 2006.
Much more info in the CDC Syphilis Fact sheet.