Get informed : Sexuality

What is it?
•    Syphilis is an infection caused by bacteria.

•    Syphilis produces painless ulcers (lesions or sores) on the genitals, anus or mouth.

•    If left untreated, the infection can lead to grave, long-term complications and can be fatal.

•    Contrary to popular belief, syphilis is still present in our day and age, and the number of cases has risen significantly in the last few years.


•    Symptoms may appear 10 to 90 days after contact with an infected person.

•    Some people don’t display symptoms, and are unaware that they have the infection and can spread it.

•    Ulcers may disappear without treatment but this does not mean you are cured. The infection remains present until it is medically treated. Later on, you may see redness (accompanied in some cases by fatigue, headache and fever), which may disappear without treatment as well, but the infection remains present.

•    The infected person remains contagious until treated.

•    The infection is often localized to the mouth, throat, lips, tongue, and genital or anal (anus and rectum) area. Sometimes, surrounding glands are swollen (bumps).

•    A medical examination and blood test are required for diagnosis.

•    Symptoms are visible to the naked eye during certain phases of the infection.

How do you contract it?

•    Through unprotected vaginal, anal or oral (fellatio/cunnilingus) sexual contact with an infected person, even if there is no penetration.

•    During pregnancy and childbirth, the mother can transmit the infection to the baby.

•    Having syphilis once does not prevent you from contracting the infection again because syphilis doesn’t stimulate the formation of antibodies.

How do you treat it?

•    Syphilis is treated with antibiotics prescribed by a physician.

•    The antibiotics must be taken as prescribed, right up to the last pill, even if the symptoms have disappeared.

•    Avoid sex during the treatment and until such time as follow-up test results come back negative.

How do you prevent the infection from spreading?

•    Use a condom during vaginal or anal sex or a dental dam during oral sex.

•    Inform your sexual partners so that they can consult a physician to be screened for STIs even if they don’t have any symptoms.

How can you protect yourself?
•    Abstinence (not having sex)

•    Appropriate use of a condom or dental dam during vaginal, anal or oral sex

•    Limit your number of partners

•    Find out about your partners’ sexual past (note: this is no guarantee!)

•    Undergo regular screening tests if you think you are at risk

•    Consult a physician if any of your partners have an STI

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