What is it?

Syphilis is an STI caused by bacteria. It’s common, and we have seen an increase in the number of people being infected with syphilis in recent years. Untreated syphilis can cause serious health problems like blindness, headaches, or damage to other parts of the body and can potentially be deadly. If someone is pregnant and has syphilis, it can cause problems for them and the fetus.

How can someone get it?

People can get syphilis from their skin touching a syphilis sore on another person during oral, vaginal, or anal sex. Syphilis can also be passed from a pregnant person to their baby.

How can it be prevented?

Some ways syphilis can be prevented are

  • using condomsinternal condoms, or dental dams as a barrier between the bodies;

  • not having sex or being abstinent;

  • getting tested regularly, especially with new sexual partners, to know your status;

  • talking openly, honestly, and without judgment with sexual partners about STIs;

  • learning how to care of your health.


The symptoms of syphilis can be hard to notice. There are 3 stages of syphilis, and each has different symptoms. The infection stays even when symptoms go away, so it is really important to get tested.

3 stages of syphilis

  1. A round, firm, and painless sore or sores appear where the person’s body came in contact with a syphilis sore. Sores last several weeks and then go away on their own, but treatment is needed.

  2. Rashes or sores in the mouth, anus, or genitals. A rash that doesn’t itch and looks like rough, red, or reddish-brown spots typically on the palms of the hands and/or the bottoms of the feet. People can also have symptoms like fever, headache, weight loss, or muscle aches. Symptoms will go away on their own but treatment is needed. 

    Between stages 1 and 2, people have a period of time where they don’t have symptoms, but the syphilis is still in their body.

  3. Syphilis starts to hurt many different parts of the body like the heart, brain, and bones. This is very serious and can lead to death.

Who should get tested?

Syphilis is common. Anyone engaging in sexual activity could potentially become infected with syphilis, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation. Getting tested is the only way to know if you have syphilis.

Here are some times when is important to get tested soon

  • If someone notices any of the symptoms listed above.

  • If someone is sexually active and living with HIV.

  • When someone is taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).

  • When someone is pregnant.

  • When someone is told by a sexual partner that they have syphilis or other STI.

How is it tested?

Syphilis is usually tested with a blood sample. Testing can be done with a finger prick or drawing blood from a vein. A medical provider could also test by lightly scraping a sore and testing the skin.

How is it treated?

Syphilis can be cured with the right antibiotics from your medical provider. However, treatment will not undo any damage that the infection has already done so it is important to get tested and treated early.

Where to get checked?

If you are in Pueblo, Colorado, contact the Family Planning Clinic from Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment.

English: Call (719) 583-4380. Monday to Friday 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM.
Español: Llama (719) 583-4376. Lunes a viernes 8:00 AM a 4:30 PM. 

If you are somewhere else in the United States you can find other resources here.

Go Ask Tara

Go Ask Tara is on a mission to provide sex education and help the youth of Colorado prevent pregnancy and STIs.