Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the bacteria Treponema Pallidum. Syphilis is a nasty little critter. If left untreated Syphilis passes through a number of stages and spreads to the whole body. If untreated for long periods of time, it can cause damage to internal organs including the brain, liver, and eyes and lead to cardiovascular and nervous system complications.

Syphilis Facts

  • Syphilis is on the rise in Queensland amongst men who have sex with men (MSM). This includes gay, bisexual and straight men. It is also on the rise within heterosexual men and women, as well as transgender people.


  • New infections have more than doubled in the last 5 years


  • In Queensland, men who have sex with men represented 59% of all new Syphilis infections over the last decade (2008-2018)


  • The biggest outbreaks within Queensland have been in southeast and far north regions


Syphilis is a cheeky little bugger. Syphilis likes penetrative sex (bottom or top) and also oral sex (giving/getting head). Sexual contact may put you at risk of Syphilis

(This could include rubbing genitals together). 


If left untreated, Syphilis does not remain localised and spreads to other areas of the body. Syphilis is infectious to your sexual partners during the primary and secondary stages.


There are 3 main stages of infection.

Click To Learn About The Stages Of Syphilis

 Primary Stage

  • First stage symptoms appear after 10 – 90 days.

  • A red often painless sore may appear on your genitals, mouth, and bum.

  • If untreated the sore will go away after a few weeks, however the infection will lead to the next stage.


  • Second stage symptoms can occur from two to six month after initial infection

  • Rash on the palm of your hands, bottom of feet and other parts of your body

  • Sore throat, fever, muscle/ join pains, swollen lymph glands, patchy hair loss.


Early Latent

  • Usually within first 12 months after syphilis infection

  • No Symptoms

  • Individuals are still infectious and are able to spread syphilis


Late Latent

  • After roughly two years, individuals progress to late latent syphilis and are not infectious. However, they MUST still be treated in order to prevent onset of tertiary syphilis.


  • Tertiary syphilis is rare and develops due to syphilis infections going untreated

  • It can appear 10–30 years after infection was first acquired, and it can be fatal. 

  • Tertiary syphilis can affect multiple organ systems, including the brain, nerves, eyes, heart, blood vessels, liver, bones, and joints. Symptoms of tertiary syphilis vary depending on the organ system affected.

Click To Learn Why Syphilis Increases Your Risk of HIV

  • Your risk of contracting HIV increases when you or your partner have Syphilis

  • Open Syphilis sores can allow an entry point of HIV into your body, and Syphilis inflammation will attract immune cells that are vulnerable to HIV infection. Remember, Syphilis symptoms are not always noticeable

  • Regardless of contracting a Syphilis infection, HIV cannot be passed on if people living with HIV are on HIV treatment with a sustained undetectable viral load (UVL).

Test Every 3 Months

Sexually active? (including oral sex)


Test Every 3 Months.


Testing includes a blood test and swabs.


Click Here

Find Your Nearest Clinic

Untreated Syphilis Is Serious.

Early Treatment Isn't.


Treatment is usually a one-time injection of antibiotics.


Depending on the stage of infection a course of treatment may be required.

Click Here

Find Your Nearest Clinic

Important things to know

  • Being treated for syphilis doesn’t stop you from getting it again


  • Informing sexual partners prevents reinfection and further transmission to others


Often partners are supportive and appreciate they have been informed that they may have been exposed to an STI.  If one partner is untreated for an STI it can be passed back and forth.

You have a few choices: 

  1. Tell them face-to-face 

  2. Ask your doctor for assistance 

  3. Send an online anonymous message as a text or email

1. Tell Your Partner Face-to-face 

  • Just tell them in person or over the phone. If you feel a text message is easier, this works too.

  • Often we connect with our sexual partners on hook up apps like Grindr. You already have a dialogue going, so why not use this chat option to tell them you got syphilis?

2. Ask Your Doctor

  • Your doctor can assist you in contacting your sexual partners and suggest they be treated also.

  • Your doctor may be able to arrange a Contact Tracer (a special public health worker) to inform them for you

  • You won’t be identified


3. Online Anonymous Notification

  • If you don’t feel comfortable telling them in person, you can still let them know by an anonymous SMS or email by clicking here

Click For Tips To Assist You In Telling Your Sexual Partners

  • Just be upfront and let them know you that you had a recent sexual health test and you tested positive for syphilis.

  • If you suspect you contracted it from your partner, don’t assume they knew they had an infection and didn’t tell you—syphilis and other STIs often have no symptoms and people might not know they had it. 

  • Know the basics about syphilis to answer any questions

  • Let your partner know you have been treated for syphilis and how easy it was to treat


Use of condoms with water based lube or dams is the most effective way to reduce

transmission of Syphilis and other STIs.


However, did you know you can still contract an STI even if you're using condoms?

For this reason it's best to

Use Condoms & Test Regularly.

Click Here

Order FREE Condoms

Click Here

Find Your

Nearest Clinic

Click For Condom Tips

  • Keep the condom in a cool place

  • Check the expiry date

  • When opening the condom pack be careful not to snag with rings or fingernails

  • Don’t use your teeth to open the packet as you might accidentally damage the condom

  • Pinch the air out of the tip

  • Use the condom with water-based or silicone-based lubricant only

  • Reapply lube if having longer sessions

  • Roll the condom up all the way to the base of your penis. This will minimise any skin to skin contact which helps prevent transmission of syphilis and other STIs

  • Hold the base of the condom while withdrawing

  • You can also use dental dams to act as a barrier when performing or receiving oral sex such as blowjobs or rimming


When it comes to sex, especially safer sex there aren’t many resources available for the Trans, Gender Diverse and Non-Binary communities. We need to be able to talk about our bodies, identities, presentations, wants and needs in a respectful and relatable way that allows for us to have open and honest conversations about who we are and what we want and need in a range of settings and environments this includes sexual health and STIs.

Regardless of who you are STIs don’t discriminate, syphilis can affect EVERYONE. Talk to an LGBTI friendly doctor or sexual health clinic. Practice safer sex and test often, it is important to know your STI & HIV status.

Asset 6_4x.png

Because Syphilis can move very quickly and silently through our Indigenous communities, and you can’t tell just by looking, the only way we can know is if you are positive is by testing.


It doesn’t matter who you are, it can affect everyone, including our unborn. So always use condoms and be sure that if you have had condomless sex, get tested. It’s very simple to find out. Ask your doctor for a test.

For more information for Indigenous Communities visit:


Syphilis is increasing in people with a cervix/uterus of reproductive age and among pregnant people.


Pregnant people with untreated syphilis risk passing syphilis through the placenta to their unborn infant. If left untreated, syphilis can cause serious health problems for both the parent and the baby. Complication for a baby include possible: premature birth, baby born with syphilis (congenital syphilis), still birth or death shortly after birth.

It’s important if you do get diagnosed with syphilis, you let all your sexual partners know, and that includes everyone you are sexually active with.

Asset 7_4x.png

It can be hard to talk about sex with your mates and people close to you. Whether you’ve been away from home, busy working or on some down time we’ve all had thoughts that keep running around in our minds about getting checked for STIs. The fact is syphilis is on the rise across Queensland, so if you’re in bigger towns like Mackay, Townsville, Cairns or Mount Isa or even if you’re in other towns close by, check out sexual health testing places near you and make an appointment if you’re unsure.