Syphilis: The 19th Century Monster Returns

syphilis rates

In the final days of National STD Awareness Month, we’re throwing it back to talk about the return of the 19th century monster: syphilis. Yup, it’s back – King Kong style, but instead of scaling buildings, it’s hiding in your pants.

We know what you’re thinking: who even gets syphilis anymore? Well friends, the sad truth is that syphilis, which was once all but eliminated, has begun to rear its ugly head again – rates are the highest they’ve been in 20 years, and are especially rising among gay males.

What Is Syphilis?

Because you read this blog (and you’re awesome), we know you know the difference between bacterial and viral STDs – syphilis is the former, and caused by the bacteria Treponema pallidum. There are four stages of syphilis and sometimes the symptoms are hard to notice. During stage one, a sore (called a chancre) can appear in the vagina, on the lips, mouth, breasts, anus, or cervix. During stage two, you might develop a body rash, muscle sores, headaches, fatigue, weight loss, hair loss, and swollen glands. Penicillin can cure most cases of syphilis in the early stages, but if left untreated syphilis can lead to heart, brain, and nervous system damage.

Why Does It Matter?

According to the CDC: “The current number and rate of cases is higher than it’s been in more than 20 years. In 2015, there were close to 24,000 cases of syphilis reported in the U.S.—that was almost a 20% overall increase since 2014 alone.” In addition, it is estimated that about half of the men who have sex with men, who are living with syphilis, are also living with HIV – as having syphilis makes it easier to get HIV. The number of women who have contracted syphilis rose 27% from 2014-2015. This, unfortunately, has led to an increase in babies born with syphilis – which can mean deformed bones, an enlarged liver, and more.

The good news is that syphilis is preventable (and treatable with antibiotics).

What Can I Do?

If you’re having sex, you can contract syphilis, just like you can contract any other STD. The important thing to remember is to get tested regularly and talk with your partner before you have sex. If you think you might have syphilis, remember that it’s OK. This can be cured and BeSafeMeds can help!

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