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Syphilis still on the rise: get tested!

While there is a lot of focus on getting tested for HIV, people may not be regularly tested for all STIs, including syphilis.

In 2012, BC experienced the highest number of syphilis cases in over 30 years. The majority of people getting syphilis in Vancouver are gay and bisexual men. 

Although syphilis is treatable with antibiotics, it can cause severe long term complications (or death) if not treated early. Most people who are diagnosed with syphilis have no symptoms, so doctors are recommending that gay guys get tested every 3 to 6 months as a part of their sexual health testing regimen. This will lead to faster treatment of the infection, and will also prevent its transmission to partners.

You can get tested for free at a number of clinics, including the Bute Street and 655 West 12th clinics run by the BC Centre for Disease Control, and the HIM Health Centres in Vancouver.  Or use our clinic finder to locate a clinic near you.

Syphilis is spread through oral sex as well as anal sex, or deep kissing/rubbing and grinding if coming in contact with a syphilis sore or if semen is present.

Syphilis symptoms come in stages which can vary in severity from person to person. As a result, syphilis can be misdiagnosed. Be honest with a health care professional about your sexual history or concerns. The best way to know if you have syphilis is to get tested.

Syphilis and HIV

  • Having an STI or having sex with someone who has an STI will increase your risk of picking up HIV.
  • If you already have HIV, having syphilis may increase your viral load, increasing the chances that you’ll pass HIV on to others.
  • HIV-positive guys might pick it up or pass it on during condomless anal sex with other HIV-positive guys.

For more information, visit the Check Him Out – Syphilis campaign.