Queensland Council for LGBTI Health has collaborated with Queensland Positive People to launch the second phase of their Queensland campaign, Let’s Treat Syphilis.
To commemorate it, QC is here to break down the basics of syphilis for us:
How is the infection contracted, what are the different stages of infection, and how is it treated?
How do you get syphilis?
Syphilis is a sexually transmittable infection (STI), which means it can be spread through oral, anal, and genital contact.
This means it can be transferred through both penetrative sex (bottom or top) and non-penetrative sex.
It is common for the infection to have no symptoms, which means you could contract syphilis and not even know it.
If untreated, the infection progresses through stages, each of which has different symptoms.
What are the stages of syphilis?
1. Primary syphilis
First stage symptoms appear from two weeks to three months after getting the infection.
Signs may include a red, often painless sore (or sores) at the site of infection such as on your genitals, mouth, or bum.
If untreated the sore/s will go away after a few weeks, however the infection still remains in the body and can be passed onto others.
2. Secondary syphilis
Second stage symptoms can occur from two to six month after initial infection
Signs may include non-itchy rashes on the palm of your hands, bottom of feet and other parts of your body.
Other signs such as a sore throat, fever, muscle/joint pains, swollen lymph glands and patchy hair loss may also occur.
3. Latent stage
Early Latent stage usually occurs within the first 12 months after an untreated syphilis infection.
It has no noticeable symptoms, but the body still has the infection and it can still be passed onto others
After roughly two years, syphilis will progress to the late latent stage and will become non-infectious.
However, a late latent infection during pregnancy can still be passed onto the unborn baby.
Furthermore, you must still be treated in order to prevent onset of tertiary syphilis.
4. Tertiary syphilis
Tertiary syphilis will only occur when syphilis is left untreated – this is now very uncommon.
Signs may include damage to your body’s organs, and can also possibly lead to death.
How to test for syphilis?
There are multiple ways to test for syphilis. These can include:
Blood samples –
This is usually done through a simple blood test.
If you have sores, the clinician may swab/ask you to use a cotton swab to obtain a sample – this is done by rubbing the swab on the sore.
Rapid test –
These tests involve taking a small amount of blood from your fingertip (with a finger prick). Results from these tests are available in around 20 minutes.
Is it curable?
Yes! Treatment usually involves a one-time injection of antibiotics.
However, depending on the stage of infection, a course of treatment may be necessary.
Medication is free at all public and some private clinics (the consultation may require payment)
It’s important to remember that even if you have been treated for syphilis, it is possible to become re-infected if you are exposed to the infection again. You don’t become immune.
If you want to learn more about treating and living with syphilis, visit QC and QPP’s Lets Treat Syphilis campaign.
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