LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — California is one of the nation’s leaders in tourism, solar jobs, charter schools, sunny days and the entertainment industry.

But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the state is in danger of leading in another area: syphilis.

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The rate of syphilis infection for the United States and its regional territories began rising for the first time in a decade in 2001 after steadily declining every year since 1990, the CDC said. The national rate held steady at 4.5 infections in 100,000 in 2011, but the CDC’s most recent data shows that in 2012, the national syphilis rate again began to rise to 4.6.

Locally, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation on Thursday put up a billboard to try to combat the growing infection rate.

The billboard, to appear around Los Angeles, uses the California state grizzly bear smacking a paw to its forehead, a reminder not to forget to use a condom.

AHF says the only way to continue to fight the disease is with condom use and routine STD testing. The AHF hopes humor in discussing the topic will lead to awareness.

The healthcare group quoted CDC’s nationwide surveillance of California, which saw 3,600 cases of late latent syphilis, 2,900 cases of early latent syphilis and 3,500 cases of primary and secondary syphilis in 2013. This is an increase of 18 percent from the number of cases in 2012, the CDC said.

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The AIDS Healthcare Foundation offers free STD checks. (credit: FreeSTDCheck.org)

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation offers free STD checks. (credit: FreeSTDCheck.org)

The billboard also promotes www.freeSTDcheck.org, where the public can find locations to access free STD testing and affordable care for the treatment of STDs, including chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis through AHF.

For the record, Florida leads the country in new syphilis cases.

Similar STD billboards have appeared the past few years in Florida, Oklahoma, Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia.


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