What is syphilis?
Syphilis is a potentially serious sexually transmitted infection. It can be caught by having oral, vaginal or anal sex with someone who is infected. Condoms do not provide 100% protection as syphilis may also be spread by skin to skin contact. If not treated syphilis may cause skin, heart or brain disease many years after infection. Pregnant women can pass the infection on to their unborn baby and there is a high risk of miscarriage or stillbirth if the baby is affected.
Who is at risk of syphilis?
Syphilis is most commonly diagnosed in men who have sex with men and people who have had sex overseas. However because approximately 50% of people do not get symptoms they will not know unless they have been tested.
How do I know if I have syphilis?
Syphilis can cause painless sores in the mouth, genital or anal area. It may also cause a rash that can spread over the whole body but sometimes the rash may only be on the palms of the hands or soles of the feet. (link to clinical photos) However many people do not have any symptoms at all. Syphilis is easily diagnosed through a simple blood test.
Who should be tested for syphilis?
All pregnant women are routinely tested for syphilis as part of their antenatal screening. At Auckland Sexual health Service we routinely offer blood tests for syphilis as part of our STI screening. We particularly recommend blood tests for syphilis for men who have sex with men, people who have had sex overseas and people with a new sexual partner.
How is syphilis treated?
Syphilis is easily treated with antibiotics. All sexual partners also need to be tested and treated. Because syphilis can increase the risk of getting HIV we also recommend all people treated for syphilis are tested for HIV. For further information please contact one of our clinics.