Syphilis

What is syphilis?

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted inection (STI) caused by a corkscrew-shaped bacteria called Treponema pallidum.  The only way to be sure you don't have syphilis is through testing.  

Is syphilis a threat in Wisconsin?

The number of syphilis cases in Wisconsin is increasing.

Syphilis prevention is important. Untreated or inadequately treated syphilis can lead to severe long term health complications including blindness, deafness, severe birth defects and even death.   For people living with HIV these severe complications can advance at a faster rate.

Watch this video to learn the facts about syphilis.

Health care professionals should go to the Health Care Professionals webpage for information on reporting STIs and other items.

Am I at risk for syphilis?

If you are having sex, you can get syphilis. You have a greater potential of contracting it if you are a:

  • Male identifying person who has sex with other male identifying people.
  • Person with any STI
  • Person with a sex partner who has an STI
  • Person with more than one sex partner
  • Person with a new sex partner
  • Person using social apps to find new sex partners

How can I avoid getting syphilis?

There are many ways to prevent getting syphilis and it’s as easy as ABC.

  • Avoid having sex until you feel prepared and have the knowledge to protect yourself.
  • Be monogamous, have sex with only one person and communicate to your partner to be sure they only have sex with you.  Get tested together prior to having sex so you can find out if either of you have an STI, like syphilis (see below for testing centers near you).
  • Condoms can protect you from getting syphilis but only where they cover. You can get syphilis through oral sex either giving or receiving.

Fact sheets

Learn more about the causes, risk factors, and treatment of syphilis:

  • Department of Health Services (DHS) fact sheet, P-42095 (in English, Spanish and Hmong).
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) fact sheet.

Testing and treatment

Find locations around the state where you can get tested; not all locations treat for syphilis.

Last Revised: September 22, 2021