Syphilis: What is it?

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the bacteria Treponem pallidum.

There are three stages of syphilis that can lead to death if not treated. These stages are:

  • Primary stage: One or more sores in the mouth, penis, vagina or anus. Unlike herpes, these sores are NOT painful
  • Secondary stage: Skin rashes on the trunk of the body, and the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet
  • Latent stage: When the symptoms (or signs of disease) of stage one and two disappear, but you still have syphilis

Syphilis: How can I get it?

You can get syphilis from the following types of contact with either a male or female who has this sexually transmitted infection (STI):

  • Oral sex
  • Anal sex
  • Vaginal sex
  • Direct contact with an infected sore that has syphilis bacteria
  • By being born to an infected mother

Syphilis: Prevention

Using latex condoms the right way all the time can reduce your chances of syphilis only when the infected area is protected. However, a syphilis sore outside of the area covered by a latex condom can still get infected, so be careful even when using a condom.

  • Using male condoms
  • Using female Condom
  • Not having sex (abstinence)

How can I get tested for Syphilis?

A blood test can be used to test for syphilis.

How can I be treated for Syphilis?

A single shot of long-acting Benzathine penicillin G will cure a person who has primary, secondary or early latent syphilis. Three doses of this drug are recommended for people with late latent syphilis or latent syphilis for an unknown amount of time. Treatment will kill the syphilis bacteria and prevent further damage to your organs.

Syphilis: How can I protect my partner(s) once I know I have it?

People who get syphilis treatment should not have any sexual contact with partner(s) until the syphilis sores are fully healed. People with syphilis must tell their sex partners so that they also can be tested and get treatment if needed.