Infectious syphilis is increasing in New York State, with a 13 percent increase in New York City and a 44 percent increase in Upstate New York between 2013 and 2014. In many Central New York and Capital District counties, the number of cases has more than doubled in this period. The highest burden of cases is seen in New York City and surrounding counties. Cases are mainly among males, especially among men who have sex with men.
Syphilis is a bacterial infection usually spread by sexual contact. Symptoms include a painless bump or sore at the infection site (usually genitals, can also be around the rectum, mouth, or other areas) and a rash, usually on the hands and feet. These symptoms will go away on their own but the infection is still in the body. This is why testing is critical. All clients of Callen-Lorde should be aware of the risk factors, signs, and symptoms of syphilis. Having condomless sex, multiple sex partners, or a new sex partner can all increase the risk of syphilis infection, as well as other STDs and HIV.
Syphilis increases your risk of getting HIV if you are exposed. Syphilis is easy to transmit, and many people don’t have symptoms. Using condoms does reduce the risk of infection. If you are serosorting or using pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV, remember that these strategies do not protect against syphilis and other STDs.
To learn more about syphilis, check out the Syphilis info brochure here. If you are a patient at Callen-Lorde and would like to be tested, call us at (212) 271-7200. If you are not a patient, visit Gettested.cdc.gov to find a Syphilis testing location near you.