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What is Syphilis?

Syphilis is an STI caused by the bacteria treponema pallidum.  It can be treated with an injection of medication. If it’s not treated it can stay in the body for many years and cause serious problems later in life. Syphilis is more common in guys who have sex with guys.

Are there any symptoms?

At first, you may not notice any symptoms with syphilis. Later, you may notice sores or ulcers in the mouth, anus, penis or vagina. You might also notice a red rash on your body and feel tired all the time. Then these symptoms may go away and once again you may not notice any symptoms. Later in life you can have problems with your heart and brain if it was not treated.

How do you catch it?

Syphilis is really infectious when you have the sores or rash. This makes it easy to catch syphilis through skin-to-skin contact during oral, vaginal or anal sex without a condom. Women are tested for syphilis during pregnancy as they can give syphilis to their unborn baby.

What about Prevention? Testing? Treatment?

Use condoms during oral, vaginal or anal sex to stop you catching or passing on syphilis. 

Don’t have sex with anyone who has syphilis or symptoms of syphilis, even when using a condom, until 7 days after they have finished their medication (antibiotics).

You can get a blood test from your doctor to find out if you have syphilis. The doctor can also take a swab if you have a sore or ulcer. The good thing is if you have syphilis, your doctor will give you a medication called penicillin through an injection (needle). Remember, you will need to get another blood test to make sure you are cured. It’s also important to let anyone know that you may have had sex with recently, so they can be tested and treated too. This is called contact tracing.

The medication to treat syphilis is given by a doctor or nurse though a needle. Remember, you can still get syphilis again even after you have finished treatment.

Get regular STI check-ups at your doctor to find out if you have syphilis.