Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). It is caused by bacteria and can cause serious health problems if left untreated. However, it is easy to cure if found early.
Syphilis is rare in Australia but the numbers are increasing, especially in men who have sex with men and young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in northern Australia.
What if I have syphilis?
If you think you may have syphilis, it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible. Your doctor will confirm the diagnosis with testing and start treatment if required.
It is safest not to have sex, even with a condom, until after you have completed the full course of treatment. Syphilis is very infectious, particularly during the early stages.
It is very important to tell previous sex partners who may have been exposed so that they can also be tested and treated if infected. Your doctor will help you decide who you need to tell and how you can tell them.
The Let Them Know website can provide advice and sample emails, SMSs and letters to send either personally or anonymously.
Where do I find more information?
For further information contact your doctor, sexual health clinic or call healthdirect on 1800 022 222.
Not sure what to do next?
If you are still concerned about syphilis, why not use healthdirect’s online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.
The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).
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Last reviewed: May 2019