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Syphilis (Sif-ill-is)

Syphilis is a bacterial infection that infects the penis, vagina, throat and anus. It travels in the blood stream and can cause serious health problems throughout the body if not treated.

How is it passed on?

  • Unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex
  • Direct skin-to-skin contact, especially when sores or rashes are present
  • Sharing sex toys
  • Pregnancy/childbirth – infected mother to baby


Often only mild symptoms, but may include:

  • a painless sore in or around the mouth and/or penis, vagina, or anus
  • in later stages, a rash can develop on the upper body, palms of the hand or soles of the feet

How is it tested?

  • Blood test

How is it treated?

  • Usually one antibiotic injection – the sooner you get treated, the less treatment needed.
  • Avoid having sex until your doctor says your treatment has been successful.
  • Your sexual partner/s will need to be tested and treated to avoid re-infecting each other.
  • Follow-up blood test to ensure the infection is gone.

How can I prevent getting it?

  • Use a condom and/or dam during vaginal, anal or oral sex and when sharing sex toys.
  • Use a latex glove during manual sex.
  • Avoid contact with any sores and rashes.
  • No sexual contact with anyone diagnosed with syphilis (not even using a condom) until after their treatment has finished.