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Sexuality Education Resource Centre


Ate Anna:

The newspaper talked about something called syphilis. What is it, and what do I need to know?

A Reader

Dear Reader:

Thank you for your question! Syphilis is a type of bacteria that, if someone has it in their body, might be passed to another person through sexual touching. Syphilis is considered a sexually transmitted infection (STI), and the infection rate for it is unusually high in Manitoba right now. Other STIs you may have heard of are HIV/AIDS, herpes, gonorrhea, chlamydia, among others.

Every STI is different. Some STIs are spread when infected body fluids such as blood, semen, vaginal or anal fluids get passed to another person during vaginal, oral or anal sex. Other STIs, including syphilis, are spread by touching an infected area of skin, or by sharing personal body items such as needles.

There are many kinds of sexually transmitted infections. Some STIs can be cured with antibiotics or special lotions. Syphilis is curable with a prescription from a health care practitioner.

Many people who have syphilis do not know that they have it. Sometimes there are symptoms including sores or rashes, but in many cases there are no symptoms at all. This is why it is important for people who are sexually active to get tested regularly.

Syphilis and general STI testing is free with your Manitoba Health Card, and can be done with regular health care provider, at any community health centre, or at many walk-in clinics. Klinic and Nine Circles Community Health Centre have special STI clinics.

An STI test includes providing a urine (pee) sample, a blood sample, and sometimes a swab of the genital area or a visual inspection. If you have questions about these you can ask the person giving you the test to answer them for you.

Most tests take a few days to get the results. If syphilis or another STI is found, your health care provider will contact you to discuss this. You can tell them how best to contact you. They take privacy very seriously and will only contact you in the ways you have asked. If an STI is found, they will talk to you about treatment and management options.

For some STIs, including syphilis, the health care provider will need information from you about your past sexual partners; this is so they can be contacted and advised to go for testing themselves. In these cases, your name will never be used when they contact your past sexual partners.

You can reduce your chances of getting syphilis and other STIs by using safer sex supplies, including condoms, sex dams or gloves. Information on how to use these correctly can be found on our website at

Thank you for your question!
Ate Anna

Ate Anna welcomes your questions and comments. Please write to: Ate Anna, Suite 200-226 Osborne St. N., Winnipeg, MB R3C 1V4 or e-mail: Visit us at for reliable information and links on the subject of sexuality.

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