Tag Archives: syphilis

How is Syphilis Spread?

gytIf you thought that syphilis wasn’t an issue anymore, you’re wrong. Read on…

Primary Stage  
During this stage many people will notice a painless sore(s). The sores can appear on the penis, vagina, anus, rectum, and/or lips/mouth. The sore(s) usually take 3-6 weeks to heal and can go away on their own without treatment. It is important to note that an infected person should make sure they seek medical attention to ensure the infection does not go into the second stage. During this stage an infected person is contagious. The sore(s) spread from direct contact (aka: oral, anal, or vaginal sex).

Secondary Stage
During this stage someone may notice an unusual rash and/or sores in the mouth or genital area. The rash can also occur on other parts of the body. You could also develop a rash on the palms of the hands or bottom of the feet. Sometimes it is very noticeable and other times it can be so faint someone may not notice it. Other symptoms can include fever, swollen lymph glands, sore throat, patchy hair loss, headaches, weight loss, muscle aches, and fatigue (feeling very tired). The symptoms from this stage will eventually go away, but if they are not treated the infection can develop into the latent and late stages.

Latent and Late Stages
During these stages the infection can hibernate for years and not show any signs or symptoms. If someone had the infection for a long time it could move to the late stage and cause damage to internal organs, blindness, brain damage and potentially lead to death.

Can syphilis harm a pregnancy?
Syphilis can lead to a low birth weight baby that is born early, stillborn or cause severe birth defects. Women should be tested for STD’s during pregnancy and at delivery.

How do you test for syphilis?
A quick blood draw will determine if you are positive.

Can syphilis be cured?
Yes, thankfully syphilis can be cured with antibiotics, but the medication cannot reverse any damage that the infection has caused.

How do you prevent syphilis?
The only way to prevent syphilis is to not have direct contact with a syphilis sore. In other words, abstinence from oral, anal and vaginal sex. You can reduce your risk by always using condoms and barriers.

For more information on syphilis or to find a Planned Parenthood in your area.

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The App That’s Helping Syphilis Spread

dsc_0094-e1367819041812Some scary news is coming out of Onondaga County, NY. Between 2012 and 2013, the number of syphilis cases nearly doubled, and the smart phone app called Grindr is partly to blame. Grindr is a global positioning app that allows users to locate other users (within feet) who want to meet up. Many times, these meet ups turn into hook ups. The app is targeted to men who have sex with men, very similar to other apps like Tinder, which targets a more heterosexual base. Grindr boasts over 7 million members across 192 countries. You can see why health officials are concerned.

Health officials in the Syracuse area confirmed that nearly all the cases involved men, and more than 70 percent involved men who reported having sex with other men. Many of these men reported using Grindr (and similar apps) to find their recent sex partners. In case you need a refresher, syphilis can be deadly if left untreated by antibiotics. It is a bacterial infection, like chlamydia and gonorrhea, but left untreated, syphilis has much worse consequences. To learn about the symptoms associated with syphilis, please visit this CDC fact sheet.

This news is especially hard to hear considering that the U.S. was doing so well at reducing syphilis cases that the CDC officially ceased its Syphilis Elimination Effort just months ago in December 2013.

The Grindr website encourages its users to stay safe by getting tested and using protection, but only specifically mentions HIV and hepatitis. Here are two tips to keep you (sexually) safer when using meet up to hook up apps: 1- Know your status by getting tested often. If you’re testing positive, don’t spread the infection. 2- Use condoms. Asking someone you’re dating to reveal their status is one thing, but expecting a complete stranger to be honest about their status is completely unrealistic. And remember, given the opportunity, sexually transmitted diseases will spread, regardless of who you have sex with.

If you do test positive and aren’t sure how to tell your past partners, alert them anonymously with inSPOT. For testing, visit your local health department or Planned Parenthood.

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A Short History of Contraception: From Pig Intestine to The Pill!

Today’s post was written by one of our fabulous interns, whom we appreciate so much!

In recent years, contraception has become quite a hot button issue. The use of it, though, dates back to the Ancient Egyptians.

Our ancient ancestors did not have advanced technology or extensive knowledge on the human body and our reproductive system but that did not stop them from developing some of the earliest forms of contraception. In Ancient Egypt, it was found that a type of shrub and tree, known as acacia, when fermented had a spermicide effect. This was usually combined with cotton, dates, and honey. The “pull-out method” was also discussed in both the Koran and the Bible.


The use of plants as contraceptives continued through Medieval and Early Modern Europe. In the 13th century, Pope John XXI wrote in the Treasury of Medicines for the Poor that chaste plant, rue, sage, and even pepper could be used to prevent pregnancy. One of the more creative methods in the 1700s was brewed alcohol and dried beaver testicle, but since plants alone continued to dominate, it is safe to say that dried beaver testicle may not have been extremely popular. Medieval Europe did run into conflicts with contraception, though. The Church deemed contraception to be witchcraft, so people turned to more “natural” methods. In 16th and 17th century France, it was believed that the female and male had to orgasm in order to conceive. People believed that the uterus “sucked” up the sperm when the woman reached orgasm. For many years, the female orgasm was held at high standards and was equated with new life.

When Europe experienced what is believed to be the first outbreak of syphilis in 16th century Italy, Gabriele Falloppoi developed the first condom out of linen sheaths soaked in chemicals and then dried. Though it was used as a way to prevent syphilis and other diseases, it would eventually be used as a contraceptive as well.

Those who wished to use a condom instead of herbs to prevent pregnancy were stuck with linen sheaths, or more commonly, the intestines of pigs. They were easy to make and therefore not too expensive. This all changed, though, in 1839 with the creation of vulcanized rubber. What made this different from synthetic rubber or natural rubber was that it was more elastic and therefore able to be formed into a condom. Private companies and chemists began advertising the “reusable condom.” These condoms came in their own fancy box with instructions on the bottom of the lid. The “reusable condom,” unlike the combination of alcohol and beaver testicle, was extremely popular. Fortunately, these would not be around for an extremely long time because less than 100 years later, there would be the first serious discussion on creating a chemical birth control pill.


As the world entered the 20th century, Margaret Sanger appeared. She took the reproductive rights bull by the horns and between 1914 and 1921 made immense strides in reproductive healthcare! In this short amount of time she coined the term “birth control,” opened the first birth control clinic in New York, and she started the American Birth Control League that was the precursor to Planned Parenthood. Not long after, she met a chemist named Gregory Pincus and in the 1950s began developing the first birth control. With this being such a new and progressive idea, Pincus and Sanger teamed up with a gynecologist named John Rock. With a $40,000 grant from Sanger, Pincus and Rock were able to perform their first human trials in 1954. After 2 years it was time to move to large scale trials. The women of Puerto Rico expressed a need for birth control because they were having far too many children on very little money. Their needs were met in 1956. Puerto Rico was a great place for large scale testing because there was the demand and there were no laws concerning contraception at the time in the country.


After 3 years of testing, the FDA finally approved the birth control pill in 1960. Despite it being illegal in 8 states, it was reported by the FDA that in 1965 over 6.5 million women were using it. Since its creation, the pill has been advanced and used as a contraceptive, a period regulator, a way to reduce acne, and as a way to ease cramps caused by PMS.

In a little over 2,000 years, we have gone from using herbs, animal intestine, and “witchcraft” to using hygienic and chemically safe medication in order to regulate when we have children.
Though the pill and condoms still have negative side effects and impact us all differently, they can still be seen as a better alternative to reusable condoms and pig intestine!

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