You may have heard about the recent syphilis outbreak in WA, including Perth. Or you may have heard nothing at all. Syphilis is like that – often you don’t even know it’s there (bit scary, right?).
Let’s start with the basics. Syphilis is a sexually transmissible infection (STI) that can be passed on through unprotected oral, vaginal or anal sex. While syphilis can show symptoms in some people – ulcers on the genitals or in the mouth, or sometimes a rash on the hands and feet – many people don’t have or don’t notice symptoms, or think they are due to something else. Sneaky syphilis!
If there is an ulcer it usually goes away by itself in time, but the infection remains in your body. And this is when things get serious.
Syphilis is a bacterial infection, which means (drum roll) IT’S EASILY TREATABLE. That’s right, antibiotics easily send syphilis packing if detected early on.
However, if left untreated, syphilis can have some pretty serious consequences that affect the heart, brain and nervous system. Not. Good.
So how do you know if you, or your partners, have syphilis? There’s only one way to know for sure.
GET TESTED. Getting an STI test may seem like a scary thing, but we promise it is really quite simple. Testing for syphilis involves a blood test at your GP or a sexual health clinic. You can check out Could I have it for a local clinic in your area, or head to Sexual Health Quarters.
It can be a bit daunting asking for an STI test, but all you need to say is ‘I’d like to get tested for STIs including syphilis please’, and you’re on the right track!
It’s important to get tested, especially if you’ve had unprotected sex in the past or are pregnant, as syphilis can be really dangerous to unborn babies – and can even cause death. You may also like to consider more regular testing if you’re changing partners.
Once syphilis is treated, you can still get it again, so always use condoms and dams to protect yourself and partner/s.
So what are you going to do now? Get tested? Great stuff!
For more information about syphilis contact the Sexual Health Helpline on 9227 6178/1800 198 205.
Check out the Young Deadly Syphilis Free webpage for syphilis resources.