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Syphilis, wait what huh?!

March 14, 2018

Back in the day, Syphilis was one of the most common sexually-transmitted infections (STIs) with around 1 in 10 people contracting it. Without treatment Syphilis can kill, in fact it was responsible for the deaths of Oscar Wilde and Al Capone. Thankfully along came penicillin which can cure the disease! Sweet!

BUT recently there has been increase in the rates of syphilis because of unprotected sex and a lack of testing. These rates are particularly high in men who have sex with men. 

The Basics

Syphilis is a bacterial STI that can be treated and cured. Syphilis is spread through contact with a sore called a chancre during oral, vaginal, or anal sex. Syphilis can also be passed to a baby from an infected mother. Left untreated, syphilis can cause serious problems and increase your risk for HIV infection.


Symptoms occur in three stages: primary, secondary, and latent/late stages. Symptoms of syphilis usually appear about three weeks after infection. In the primary stage, there is typically a single chancre that appears at the site of infection. It is firm, round, and painless. The sore lasts a few weeks before healing. Although the sore will heal, you need treatment to avoid secondary syphilis. Untreated syphilis also increases HIV risk because sores may allow HIV to enter your body more easily.

During secondary syphilis, a non-itchy rash usually appears on the palms of hands and the bottoms of feet. The rash will clear on its own, but you will move into the latent stage of syphilis without treatment.

Latent syphilis begins when all symptoms go away. Latent syphilis can last for years if left untreated. After one year, it is called late latent syphilis. During this stage, internal organs may be damaged and cause paralysis, heart disease, and even death.

Syphilis is often called ‘the great imitator’ because there are many possible symptoms which look like symptoms of other infections.


The only way to completely avoid syphilis is to not have oral, vaginal, or anal sex. If you are sexually active, use latex condoms to lower your risk. Even with condoms, you can get syphilis if you come in contact with sores not covered by condoms during sex.

You can also reduce your risk by encouraging sex partners to be tested and treated for STIs.


Treatment is usually a single shot of penicillin.


Be kind to yourself and others. Use protection and test often.

Own your sexual health, 

Doctor Sash

Did you know that many STI's don't have symptoms? If left untreated they can seriously damage your fertility, health and life.

If you’re unsure what to do or if you’re worried about an STI, we’re here to help with safe and easy tests you can do at home.

Don’t risk your health!


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