Syphilis - Bacterial Infection


Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by a bacteria. It is very common in Philadelphia and highly contagious. 

How do I get syphilis?

Syphilis is passed through oral, anal or vaginal sex without a condom. However, you can also get syphilis through skin-to-skin contact with an infected person who has a sore or rash. Even if you use condoms, you are not 100% protected from syphilis - you or your guy's sore or rash may not be covered by the condom. Things like rimming and fisting can also put you at risk for syphilis.

How do I know if I have syphilis?

It can take days to weeks from when you came in contact with syphilis to when you may notice symptoms. Symptoms of syphilis are different from person to person and usually come and go in three stages. It is important to be aware of your body and your partner's body in case you notice something. 

1) Primary syphilis - You may notice a painless, open sore on the part of the body that touched a syphilis sore on your partner. 

Neither of you may notice the sore!

Usually the sore is somewhere on your penis, your balls, around your butthole or in your mouth. It all depends on the type of sex you're having. If you are bottoming without a condom and your partner has a sore on his penis, your sore will be in or around your butthole. If this is the case, you may not notice it because it is in your butt! #truth

The same is true for blow jobs. If your partner has a syphilis sore on his penis and your mouth touches the sore, your sore will be in your mouth. 

The sore will heal after a few weeks without medicine. However, you still have syphilis. #yikes

2) Secondary syphilis - Can start as long as 6 months after being exposed to a syphilis sore. You may develop a rash on your chest or torso. You may also have what looks like spots on your hands or feet. Sometimes you can have swollen glands, white patches inside your mouth or white, warty bumps around your penis and balls. These symptoms will also go away without medication. Sometimes you can have symptoms like blurry vision or eye pain. If you are experiencing eye symptoms, get to a doctor right away. 

Sounds overwhelming, right? That is why syphilis can be so hard to diagnose! 

3) Latent syphilis -  During this stage, you do not have any symptoms. But you still have syphilis! This can last for a year after being exposed. 

If syphilis is untreated for a long time, it can cause serious health complications such as blindness, problems with the heart and mental illness. 

How do I test for syphilis?

Because a lot of the symptoms can be tricky to diagnose, you should have a physical exam done by your doctor and a blood test to determine if you have syphilis. Remember, a syphilis sore can be in a place like your butthole or inside your mouth so you may not notice it. That is why a blood test is so important. 

What do I do if I have syphilis? 

If you have tested positive for syphilis, have been told by your guy he has syphilis and/or are experiencing symptoms of syphilis, you need to seek medical treatment immediately. A penicillin treatment is recommended to cure syphilis. This is given as a shot in your butt cheek. You should make sure you have follow-up blood tests 3-6 months after treatment to make sure the shot worked. Like other bacterial infections, you can get syphilis again. 

It is especially important to talk to a public health worker about the guys you have sex with, even if you don't know a lot about them. This helps your doctor and other healthcare workers prevent syphilis infections in you and other people in your community. Syphilis can be prevented if someone who is exposed to it gets the same penicillin shot. But they can't get the shot if they don't know they have been exposed #ifyoudontknownowyouknow

Syphilis and HIV 

Using condoms every time, the correct way, will help reduce the risk of picking up and passing on both syphilis and HIV. Research shows us that having any STD or having sex with someone with an STD can increase your risk of picking up HIV. If you already have HIV, an infection like syphilis may increase the amount of virus in your cum and increase the chance you'll pass on HIV to your guy. 



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