Men over the age of 25 make up the majority of new syphilis cases diagonsed in DC

Know the Facts About Syphilis

Gay couple leaning in to kiss

You know it’s going to be good. Make sure it stays that way, and take precautions against syphilis so you can stay in the moment.

What is syphilis, and why should I care?

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease, caused by a bacteria, that is treatable with antibiotics when caught in the early stages. It  first causes a painless rash or sores on the skin, but lesions can become painful and last for up to six weeks. Right now, 4 out of 5 cases in DC are affecting men above the age of 25. Taking HIV-prevention medication like PrEP (Truvada) does not protect against syphilis, so a condom is still your best defense against the bacteria.

If I get it, can I be cured?

Syphilis is curable with just one shot of antibiotics if caught early. If you test positive for syphilis, a doctor will give you a single antibiotic shot as treatment. Keep in mind that re-infection is possible; always get screened again in 3 months to make sure you haven’t been re-infected.



What’s the worst that can happen?

Untreated, Syphilis can cause blindness, brain damage, heart disease or even death, but if you’re using condoms and getting tested, you can have confidence that you can catch it early and treat it with a single shot of antibiotics in one doctor’s visit.

What about my sexual partner?

If you’re dating someone or have had a recent sexual partner, it’s important that you stop having sex until any sores clear up and that your partner gets tested as well. To anonymously alert a previous sexual partner that they should get tested, you can use inSPOT.

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HIV and Syphilis

Did you know?

If you are living with HIV, you are more vulnerable to the bacteria that causes syphilis. That means if you are HIV-positive and having sex with an HIV-positive partner, you could be unknowingly transmitting or receiving syphilis, even if you are both taking medication. Use condoms every time you have sex and get tested every three months.

If you are HIV-negative, you should know that a syphilis infection can increase your likelihood of contracting HIV. That makes preventing syphilis even more important.

To learn more about HIV, visit our sister site, DC Takes on HIV.