What is it?

Syphilis is a potentially life-threatening bacterium that increases the likelihood of acquiring or transmitting HIV. It is passed from person to person through direct contact with a Syphilis sore. Sores occur mainly on the external genitals, vagina, anus, or in the rectum. Congenital syphilis causes irreversible health problems or death in as many as 40% of all live babies born to women with an untreated infection.

How will I know if I have it?

Many people who are infected do not have any symptoms for years, yet remain at risk for late complications if they are not treated. There are three stages: Primary, Secondary and Latent.

Primary is marked by a sore that left untreated, progresses to the Secondary stage which includes rashes, fever, swollen glands, sore throat, hair loss, headaches, and muscle aches. The Latent stage progresses unknown to the carrier, eventually damaging internal organs, including the brain, nerves, eyes, heart, blood vessels, liver, bones, and joints.

Testing for Syphilis

A blood sample is needed for the test. Results are available the same day that your sample is received in the laboratory.


It can be cured with antibiotics. A prescription is available from your Better2Know Doctor, or you can go to your own Doctor or a sexual health centre.

Adverse consequences

An untreated case can be fatal, and there is an increased risk of contracting other STIs including HIV as the immune system is weaker. It is important to get tested regularly and to get any infection treated.

For pregnant women there can be further complications, which may include: miscarriages, premature births, stillbirths, or death of newborn babies. There is also risk of deformities, delays in development, or seizures along with many other problems such as rash, fever, swollen liver and spleen, anaemia, and jaundice. If it is undiagnosed in infants, it can cause damage to their bones, teeth, eyes, ears, and brain.