What is syphilis?

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by a bacteria. Syphilis can cause long-term complications and/or death if not adequately treated.

How common is syphilis?

The Center for Disease Control (CDC( estimates that, annually, 55,400 people in the United States get new syphilis infections. Learn more:

How do people get syphilis?

Syphilis is transmitted from person to person by direct contact with syphilis sores. Sores occur mainly on the external genitals, vagina, anus, or in the rectum. Sores also can occur on the lips and in the mouth. Syphilis can be transmitted during vaginal, anal, or oral sexual contact.

What is the link between syphilis and HIV?

Oral, anal, vaginal, or penile syphilis sores make it easier to transmit and acquire HIV infection. A person is 2 to 5 times more likely to get HIV if exposed when syphilis sores are present.

How is syphilis diagnosed?

A blood test is the most common way to determine if someone has syphilis.

How is syphilis treated?

Syphilis is treated with antibiotics from a physician. Treatment will kill the syphilis bacterium and prevent further damage, but it will not repair damage already done.

Persons treated for syphilis must abstain from sexual contact with new partners until the syphilis sores are completely healed.

How can syphilis be prevented?

Correct and consistent use of latex condoms can reduce the risk of syphilis when the sore or site of potential exposure is covered, but it is best to abstain from sex while any sore is present in the genital, anal, or oral area. Contact with a sore outside of the area covered by a latex condom can still cause infection.