Syphilis is a bacterial infection that infects the dick, throat or ass, and then spreads to different parts of the body through the bloodstream. If left untreated, it can cause damage to the nerves, bones, skin, eyes, and brain.

Symptoms can take up to 90 days to show (if at all), and it's very easy to contract and spread without realising. 

We are currently experiencing an outbreak of syphilis in Aotearoa, so it's more important than ever to test regularly via a blood test from a doctor.

Find out more info about syphilis below - the more you're informed, the less likely it is to crash your party!


NB: The following information only applies for symptomatic cases – however many cases do not present with any symptoms.

Syphilis has four main stages of infection: Pre-symptom, Primary, Secondary, and Latent (non-infectious).


Syphilis symptoms can take up to 90 days to appear - if at all - so it may have made itself at home without you even realising it.


If symptoms do present, a sore (also known as a chancre) will form where the bacteria enters the body – on the dick (often under the foreskin), front-hole, balls, mouth or ass. It’s usually painless, but in some cases it can cause discomfort, and there may be more than one. Sores usually clear up on their own after three to six weeks and are followed by symptoms of the secondary stage syphilis.


There are many symptoms that can be present in the secondary stage of syphilis. One of the most common is a rash on the body that often includes the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. The rash is not usually itchy. Other possible symptoms include: headaches, hair loss, fevers, and swollen lymph glands.


If left untreated, syphilis remains in the body and stops being infectious to sexual partners after about two years. During this stage, syphilis often does not have any visible symptoms, but it may begin to damage the body’s internal organs, which may include the brain, nerves, eyes, heart, liver, heart, bones, joints, and blood vessels. In some people this damage may not show up for many years. Damage to the internal organs can occur after ten to twenty-five years and may be serious enough to cause death.


How can you get it?

You can get it from fucking or getting fucked, oral sex (giving or receiving), ass play, or through direct skin-to-skin contact with sores or rashes on your dick, ass, mouth, lips or skin.


How do you know if you have it?

Symptoms may be mild, and many people do not experience any symptoms at all. The best way to find out if you’ve contracted syphilis is to get a blood test. Remember that symptoms may be mild and not noticeable during the early stages of the infection, and during the latent stage of syphilis you won’t experience any symptoms at all.

Rapid / finger-prick tests can also pick up syphilis, however it is currently unclear how accurate this is, and there is chance that these tests can pick up previous inflections that have since been treated. For this reason, getting a blood test via your GP or doctor is the best way to know whether or not you have syphilis.

3 people taking a photo at a party with the Syphilis character


Syphilis is typically treated with injections of antibiotics. The duration of treatment depends on the stage of the infection and ranges from between one day and three weeks. Treatment is often provided if you have had contact with someone who has had syphilis to prevent it from developing in you.


What if I'm living with HIV?

Syphilis may be harder to detect and harder to treat in people with HIV. It is a serious infection that can be mistaken for other infections found in people living with HIV. While the symptoms of syphilis are usually similar, some people living with HIV can develop severe organ and nerve damage much more rapidly than HIV negative people. For some, syphilis can decrease the CD4 count. This can cause damage to the immune system as well as increase the viral load.



Avoid contact with any sores or rashes and use condoms with lube, as this will provide the best protection. Remember, there is still a risk of infection in areas not covered by the condom.

People in the bath with the syphilis character

Notifying your sexual partner(s)

If left untreated, syphilis can be a serious illness. Therefore, it’s very important to let your partners know if you think you have come into contact with syphilis, or if you test positive (as with any STI) - including your current partners and any other partners you've had since your last test.

It may be an awkward conversation, but it could prevent syphilis from damaging their bodies and coming back around to you again. Since you can acquire syphilis more than once, getting as many people treated as possible reduces your chance of getting reinfected.

If you're also having sex with women, syphilis can be highly dangerous for unborn babies. There have been several infant deaths due to syphilis in Aotearoa in recent years.

Pro tip: If you’re nervous about telling someone you have an STI, we have a handy tool to help!


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