Syphilis is a sexually transmissible infection (STI) caused by the bacteria Treponema Pallidum and is spread through oral, anal, and genital contact.
Syphilis often presents as a painless sore, but can have no symptoms and if left untreated, can pass through a number of stages and spread to the whole body. It can be cured with antibiotics, however if untreated for long periods of time, syphilis can cause damage to internal organs including the brain, liver, and eyes and lead to cardiovascular and nervous system complications.
Syphilis can move very quickly and silently through our communities and you can’t tell you have it by sight. The only way you can know if you have syphilis is by getting a sexual health test.
It doesn’t matter who you are, syphilis can affect anyone who is sexually active. It can also be passed to unborn babies during pregnancy. To prevent getting syphilis always use condoms and make sure you get a sexual health check-up regularly. It’s very simple, ask your local health worker, nurse or doctor for a sexual health test.
To find an Aboriginal Medical Service, please click here for testing locations.
Information on safer sex, specifically for the Trans, Gender Diverse and Non-Binary communities, is hard to find due to historic and ongoing stigma and discrimination in the healthcare system.
STIs don’t discriminate, syphilis can affect EVERYONE. Talk to an LGBTI friendly doctor or sexual health clinic. Practice safer sex and test often.
For more information about Trans, Gender Diverse and Non-Binary sexual health visit
Our Health Matters: www.ourhealthmatters.com.au
Syphilis is increasing in people who can get pregnant or who are pregnant.
If a person is pregnant and has untreated syphilis, there is a high chance of it being passed onto the baby during the pregnancy via the placenta. It can lead to miscarriage, pre-term birth and sometimes the baby may be stillborn. The baby can also become critically unwell after it is born if the infection is not picked up and treated. There is also the risk of longer-term health consequences from organ, brain, and nerve damage to the baby.
If you are pregnant or planning on getting pregnant it’s important that you get tested for syphilis, access the right treatment if you have infection, and let your sexual partners know so they too can get tested.
It can be hard to talk about sex with your mates and people close to you. If you are living in a regional community, there are places where you can talk about your sexual health and get a sexual health test These include:
If you have any concerns about confidentiality, then you can speak about this with your health provider.