STDs | Chlamydia | Genital Warts | Gonorrhea | Herpes | Shigella | Syphilis
Why should gay men be concerned about syphilis
Over the past several years, increases in syphilis among gay men have been reported in various cities including San Diego. In the recent outbreaks, high rates of HIV co-infection were documented, ranging from 20 percent to 70 percent. While the health problems caused by syphilis in adults are serious in their own right, it is now known that the genital sores caused by syphilis in adults also make it easier to transmit and acquire HIV infection sexually.
Syphilis is caused by a bacteria, so it's curable. There are three stages of syphilis, the primary stage, which usually occurs within 10 to 90 days after exposure, a sore (chancre) may appear on the external genitals, anus or in the rectum, or on the lips or inside the mouth, or throat, basically wherever there has been skin to skin contact with the bacteria.
During the second phase, which usually occurs 17 days to six-and-a-half months after exposure, a rash appears, usually on the torso, or legs, but can also show up on the palms of your hands, or the soles of your feet. If left untreated, Syphilis can proceed to neurosyphilis where it can cause irreversible damage to the brain and other internal organs.
How it's spread
Syphilis is transmitted through direct skin to skin contact with sores during sex with an infected person. It’s transmitted by giving or receiving unprotected anal, unprotected vaginal or unprotected oral sex. A person can easily pass the infetion to any sex partners during Stages 1 and 2. Syphilis is NOT transmitted through causal contact such as hugging, food, using the same eating utensils, drinking from the same glass, sitting on public toilets, or touching door knobs.
Symptoms may include:
- Painless, reddish brown sore(s) on the mouth, sex organs or fingers
- Sores last between one and five weeks and then go away regardless of treatment. So simply because the sores go away, doesn't mean you no longer have syphilis, you must get treated.
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- Rash anywhere on the body, usually shows up on the torso and, or palms of the hands, or soles of the feet
- Flu-like symptoms
- Rash and flu like feelings go away, but, if untreated, you still have Syphilis
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- Uncoordinated muscle movements, paralysis and/or numbness
- Hearing loss
- Personality change
- Problems with vision
- At this stage, syphilis is more difficult to treat, or even diagnose correctly and the damage to the brain may be irreversible
During the primary and secondary stages of syphilis, injections of penicillin generally cure the infection. People who are allergic to penicillin (and who are not pregnant) may be prescribed oral antibiotics for several weeks. Those diagnosed during the latent stage of syphilis may require hospitalization.
If syphilis has advanced to neurosyphilis (the bacteria gets into the brain), treatment with IV penicillin every four hours for ten to fourteen days may be required. An alternative may be penicillin injections (once per day) along with oral antibiotics (four times a day) for ten to fourteen days.
Abstinence is the only 100% effective way of preventing syphilis. However, if you have any kind of pentrative sex without condoms, then getting tested for syphilis every 3 months is a good idea. Condoms, if you used correctly can help reduce, or eliminate the risk of transmission. However, only areas covered by condoms, dental dams or gloves are protected from infection. Avoid any skin to skin contact with any sores or rashes.
If you, or someone you know thinks they may have been exposed to Syphilis click on the following link for testing sights. Click here for testing sites.
If you're sexually active, sign-up for FREE STD testing reminders via email, text or both every 3 or 6 months at WeAllTest.com. If We All Test, we can help eliminate syphilis and other STDs in our community!