The rate of new cases of syphilis is on the rise among men who sleep with men, especially in British Columbia, Canada. This isn’t because there are more gay men, or more gay sex, but because condom use in on the decrease.
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI), and is spread by skin-to-skin contact. Oral sex, rimming, and anal sex are the most common ways syphilis is transmitted. A person can have sores in their mouth or anus, which would not be visible to a partner.
Even if condoms are used, a person can still get syphilis if the condom does not cover the sore. You don’t have to have intercourse to get syphilis. In a dark room you may not be aware your partner has a sore. Simply touching the infected area and then your partner can easily transmit the infection. It’s that easy!
Gay men need to get tested for syphilis on a regular bases, and treated as necessary.
Signs and symptoms of syphilis
Syphilis is a bacterium. It is easy to get; but luckily, it’s also easy to cure. The trouble is, you may not know you even have it.
First 2-12 weeks
- Painless sore, it is a small round sore with raised edges usually without pain
- Usually on or near the penis, balls, inside mouth or anus.
- The sore goes away without treatment in 1-5 weeks
6 weeks to 6 months after infection
- Rash on palms or soles of feet, sometimes torso or limbs
- Mucous patches in mouth or urethra or anus
- Moist heaped wart-like lesions
- Patchy hair loss
- Symptoms go away without treatment
Up to 1 year after infection
- No symptoms but can be infectious
1+ year after infection
- Neurological problems including mental health, deafness, tremors, and blindness
Diagnosis and treatment
Syphilis is detected through a simple blood test. It should be part of your regular quarterly HIV testing, along with other STI tests. Syphilis is difficult to diagnose after one year of infection; however, if caught early, it is completely curable.
Syphilis is easily treated with a single dose of two needles of penicillin, one in each cheek of the ass. Sometimes guys who are HIV positive may need to have additional treatments for two or three weeks.
Sexually active guys should be checked for syphilis on a regular basis. Some guys get tested every six or eight weeks if they are really sexually active. If you have a red mark on your cock, in your mouth, or on your butt, don’t ignore it. It will go away in time, but the syphilis will not.