Back to Question & Answers

I saw on the news that straight people are getting HIV and syphilis now. Is this true? What’s changed?

Like most infections, the prevalence and incidence of HIV and syphilis have often fluctuated. The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA) observed a notable increase in syphilis infections between 2017 and 2018. Outbreaks such as this among select populations need to be adequately addressed. Having said that nothing has changed the way syphilis is transmitted or treated, it continues to be easily identifiable and treatable.

The perception that HIV or syphilis happens only among specific population groups, gender or race can be misleading and can fuel myths and mis-information. Sexually transmitted infections can happen to anyone irrespective of their gender, race or colour. Anyone who is sexually active is at risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections including HIV and syphilis. The key to safer sexual health is to understand the risk factors and adapt safer sex practices.

Syphilis is passed through skin-to-skin sexual contact or exchange of bodily fluids with a person who has infectious syphilis.

This can be through sexual contact with a person’s mouth, genitals, or rectum when a syphilis sore or rash is present.  Syphilis can also be transmitted from an infected mother to her baby during pregnancy or at birth.  It’s important to remember that syphilis like any other undiagnosed STI increases one’s risk of contracting HIV.

Syphilis is easily treated with antibiotics; the key is early diagnosis. Testing is recommended for anyone who is sexually active. Having conversation with your health care provider would help.