AskDocQ: The STI Going Around That You Might Not Even Know You Have


I thought I’d write an update on what’s going around in the world of sexually transmitted stuff in Brisbane. And I mean literally going around.

I’ve got one word for you – syphilis.

These last couple of weeks has been a syphilis convention in Brisbane, and I’ve been jabbing people with penicillin left, right and centre.

A lot of guys have had symptoms for quite a while, but didn’t put two and two together. Syphilis is very tricky like that, it can sneak up on you and fool you into thinking you’ve got a flu or dermatitis or a harmless mouth ulcer or a fungal rash, and all along it’s this shifty little bacterium.

Syphilis is sexually transmitted, but you can also catch it from very close physical contact, especially if someone has the syphilis rash. The rash often just looks like blotchy red skin that is peeling, and it often appears on the palms of hands and soles of feet as well as anywhere else on the body.

The classic syphilis symptom is the chancre, an ulcer that usually appears on the genitals but can come up anywhere including inside your mouth or rectum.

It may not be painful, and goes away without treatment, which can lead the infected person to believe it was nothing. But alas, the syphilis organism doesn’t go away without treatment.

Instead, it spreads internally, and if left untreated for a long time can affect your heart and brain.

Fortunately syphilis can be cured with simple antibiotic therapy, but it has to be the right antibiotic! The diagnosis is made by either a blood test or a swab of a suspicious lesion, but if your doctor suspects syphilis they may offer to treat you before the tests are back, to help stop it from spreading.

There is also a rapid detection test which is offered through clinics such as Rapid in Fortitude Valley.

If you’ve been diagnosed with syphilis, then all your sexual contacts from the last 6 months (or dating back to your last negative test) will need to be notified that they also need to be

Help stop the spread of this nasty infection – get tested today.

Dr Fiona Bisshop specialises in LGBTIQ health. For more by Dr Bisshop visit, follow @DrFionaBisshop on Twitter, or send your health questions to

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Dr Fiona Bisshop

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