LET’S GET INTO IT: SYPHILIS
Good news first! Syphilis is totally curable if it’s caught early. It’s an STD caused by bacteria and while there was a dip in infection rates in the United States for a while, that number is on the rise again. So let’s take a little look at this STD, shall we?
Here are the answers to some of the most common questions about syphilis.
EVERYTHING YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT SYPHILIS
HOW IS SYPHILIS PASSED ON?
You can contract syphilis by having unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who is infected with syphilis. You can get it if your vulva, vagina, penis, anus, or mouth touches a person’s syphilis sores. Also, no has to cum in order to transmit it.
Syphilis is not spread through casual contact, so you can’t get it from hugging, kissing, sharing food and drinks, holding hands, sneezing, or from sitting on toilet seats.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF SYPHILIS?
A lot of people don’t have symptoms of syphilis or the symptoms are so mild that they don’t recognize them as an STD. If you do have symptoms, they can range from a painless rash or sores on your skin to large, painful lesions that can last for up to six weeks. The sores are called “chancres” and they happen in the first (primary) stage of syphilis.
In the secondary stage of syphilis, people get rashes on the palms of their hands, soles of their feet, and other parts of their body. These rashes can be hard to see and don’t itch. They also sometimes come with flu-like symptoms and sores.
SHOULD I GET TESTED FOR SYPHILIS?
Syphilis is part of your regular yearly STD screening but there are a few circumstances where people should consider getting screened even more often. So, if you’re a same-gender loving man or if you’re living with HIV, you should get tested every three to six months. And if you’re pregnant or if you have a partner who’s tested positive for syphilis, it’s a good idea to get checked out.
HOW MUCH DOES SYPHILIS TESTING COST?
That depends! If you have insurance, it may cover STD testing, either fully or partially. Your best bet is to give them a call and see what their policy is. But there are also clinics that offer testing on a sliding scale fee, which means it could be as cheap as “free” if you qualify. Once you’ve decided on the clinic you’re interested in visiting, give them a ring and ask about costs.
HOW COMMON IS SYPHILIS?
Syphilis was on the decline in the United States for a few decades, but the past five years or so have seen a sharp uptick in the number of reported cases of syphilis.
HOW CAN I PROTECT MYSELF?
The best way to protect yourself from getting syphilis is easy, free, and accessible — condoms! Because syphilis sores can appear around the genital area, though, condoms don’t offer 100 percent protection. But they do offer a lot, and in combination with regular testing, they’re a great way to protect yourself against syphilis and other STDs. We’ll even give them to you for free!
HOW IS SYPHILIS TREATED?
Syphilis is totally curable if it’s caught early and treated. Antibiotics like penicillin can kill the infection, prevent complications, and stop you from spreading syphilis to other people. Also, antibiotic treatment is recommended for any of your sex partners who may have been exposed to syphilis.
WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU DON’T TREAT SYPHILIS?
Syphilis actually has four stages and if you catch it in the first (primary) or second (secondary), antibiotics should knock it out. But if you don’t catch it until the third (latent) or fourth (tertiary) stage, it can cause serious, long term damage including infertility, tumors, blindness, paralysis, brain damage, nerve damage, organ damage, and it can even be fatal. With STD testing as part of your toolkit, you won’t have to worry about getting to the third or the fourth stage.