Syphilis Strikes Back: Why Are We Talking About Syphilis in 2017?

Syphilis Strikes Back. #STDMonth17

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that can cause serious health problems if left untreated. Syphilis is easy to cure with the right treatment. Syphilis has stages (primary, secondary, latent and tertiary); each stage has different symptoms. Symptoms may include a painless sore, a rash on the body, hands, or feet, patchy hair loss, or even sudden changes in vision. Learn to recognize the symptoms of syphilis.

The United States is experiencing the highest numbers of reported syphilis cases in over 20 years. Rates are on the rise in men, women, newborns, most age groups, all regions and almost every race/ethnicity.  In Virginia, the number of reported syphilis cases increased 40% between 2015 and 2016. The recent rise of syphilis highlights its ability to affect many communities at anytime and anywhere. We encourage you to learn how you can disrupt syphilis!

Men who have sex with men (MSM) are experiencing rates of syphilis not seen since before the HIV epidemic. In Virginia in 2015, 90% of reported cases of syphilis were among men. Three out of four cases of reported syphilis were among MSM. Half of MSM who have syphilis also have HIV. If you are a man who has sex with men:

  • Know what puts you at risk for syphilis and how to avoid and lower those risks.
  • Get tested for HIV and STDs, including syphilis, frequently. If you have multiple or anonymous partners, you should get tested every 3 months or a least once a year.

Pregnant women are also experiencing increasing rates of syphilis. When a pregnant woman has syphilis, her baby may be stillborn or miscarried. Congenital syphilis is when a baby is born with syphilis. If you are pregnant:

  • Get tested for syphilis the first time you see your doctor for healthcare during pregnancy. Your doctor may want to test you later in your pregnancy and again when your baby is born.
  • If you test positive for syphilis, get treated right away. Medicine used to cure syphilis is safe for you and your baby to receive during pregnancy.
  • Make sure your sex partner(s) receive treatment to avoid getting syphilis again.