Of all the STDs, Syphilis is one of the oldest, dating back to the 15th century. Though its exact origin is unknown, the first cases of Syphilis were believed to be reported in Europe, particularly Italy, around 1494. Since then, this ‘venereal pest’ has continued to endanger mankind in large numbers. However, with the discovery of penicillin in the 20th century, Syphilis became easily manageable.

A study also, suggests that this sexually transmitted disease spreads more easily through anal or oral intercourse which could be the reason of its higher prevalence in gays, homosexuals, bisexuals etc.

According to a study, the prevalence rate of Syphilis is much higher in men who have intercourse with other men (MSM) than in men who have intercourse with women only. As Syphilis predisposes one to HIV, HIV cases are also, on the rise among MSMs.

Other reasons for the increased infectivity rate for Syphilis and HIV among MSMs could be emotional or behavioural. As gay or homosexuals may face societal or familial rejection owing to the stigma attached to it, they may indulge in recreational drugs. Under the influence of alcohol or recreational drugs, the tendency to take preventive measures during intercourse decreases and high-risk sexual contact could be damaging.

Changing sexual partners frequently or having multiple partners (as in case of bisexuals) also, predisposes one to STDs particularly Syphilis.

Symptoms:

Symptoms of Syphilis depend on its stage which starts with a painless sore known as Chancre on the genitals, anus, rectum or the mouth (primary syphilis), rosy rash all over the body with fever and other associated symptoms (secondary syphilis), no symptoms at all (hidden or latent stage) or destruction of internal organs (tertiary or late stage). If left unattended, syphilis can cause life-threatening complications damaging the heart, brain and even death.

Prevention:

  • Stay safe: Complete abstinence from intercourse
  • Be in a committed relationship with only one partner whose STD status is known.
  • Avoid unnatural (oral or anal) intercourse
  • Use a condom properly during intercourse: the condom should properly cover the sores (if any).
  • Discuss the STD status of the partner before indulging in intimate acts.
  • Avoid multiple sexual partners
  • Do not change sexual partners frequently.
  • Get tested for STDs regularly

Diagnosis:

Knowledge of the STD status of both the partners is important before indulging in any kind of sexual activity and thus, regular and efficient STD testing should be done for early diagnosis and timely treatment. A simple blood test or a swab test of discharges (if any) usually, suffice for the diagnosis.

Also, having Syphilis once does not protect you from reinfection and thus, routine monitoring and testing is essential to keep a check on STDs.

Treatment:

Syphilis is easily treatable by a dose of penicillin or other antibiotics. It should be treated as soon as possible to prevent the disease from progressing further as the damage once caused by the infection is not reversible.

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Dr Nidhi M Jhamb

Dr Nidhi is a homoeopathic physician by profession who believes in a holistic approach towards healing. She loves to solve Sudoku puzzles and relaxes by dancing her worries away. Her passion is to write medical content in very simple language that anyone can easily understand.

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