What is it?

Syphilis is a bacterial infection that can affect many different organs in the body.  It has become a lot more common in the last 15 years.

It is passed on through unprotected:

• Anal sex (both giving and receiving)

• Oral sex (both giving and receiving)

• Fingering & fisting

• Rimming & being rimmed

How can I prevent it?

Using a condom and plenty of water based lubricant greatly reduces the risks of contact with infectious parts. But this doesn't guarantee protection as syphilis bacteria could be in any sore or rash not covered by the condom. You should avoid touching the rash or sores.

How do I know if I have syphilis?

The disease follows three stages, each with its own symptoms. But symptoms of syphilis don't always show. Many men diagnosed with syphilis never realised they had it until they got tested.

Stage 1 - Painless sores either on your penis, in or around your mouth and anus. Glands near the infection may swell

Stage 2 – The most common sign is a skin rash on your upper body, hands and feet.  Other common signs include hair loss, blurred vision and ulcers in the mouth or genitals.  Syphilis can cause other problems too and if you have symptoms that aren’t explained, ask your doctor for a test.

Stage 3 – If undiagnosed and untreated, many years later it can cause serious damage to your heart, brain, and nervous system. This is very rare as it is usually spotted by this stage.

Latent infection – this is when you have no symptoms of syphilis but the blood test is positive.  This is called “early” or “late” depending when you might have caught the infection.

Is there treatment?

Syphilis is curable with antibiotics.  The best antibiotic is a penicillin injection and depending on the stage of infection you will need a longer course.  You could also have a course of tablets as second line treatment.

Untreated syphilis can cause damage to your heart, brain and nervous system. Untreated syphilis can also increase your risk of catching HIV.

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