Reminder: Syphilis is Back

8 September 2020


In October 2019, NSW Health issued an alert concerning infectious syphilis in NSW. Since then, the increase in notifications continues, with a changing epidemiology being seen. Previously, infectious syphilis was seen mostly in men who have sex with men. But we are now also seeing infectious syphilis in heterosexuals, including women of childbearing age. Drivers of disease include increased partner numbers, unprotected sex and complex/concurrent sexual networks.

Most syphilis is actually diagnosed in general practice. GPs are encouraged to be alert and to test at every opportunity to stop the spread. Syphilis serology should be included as part of any STI screen for all patients or for investigation of a genital ulcer and/or body rash, along with an HIV test.

Your local Sexual Health Service or the NSW Sexual Health Info Link (1800 451624) are well placed to provide assistance with interpreting results and facilitating treatment of cases and their contacts. The Public Health Unit also operates an Enhanced Syphilis Surveillance Program which facilitates your local Sexual Health Clinic to offer management advice and assistance to GPs.

Updated syphilis treatment information is also available at Sydney Health Pathways.