What is it?

Syphilis is a bacterial infection that can cause sores on or in the genitals, anus, rectum, and/or lips and mouth and can lead to other health complications.

How can you get it?

You can get syphilis through oral, vaginal, or anal sex with a partner who has syphilis. The infection is transmitted when your mouth, vagina, or anus comes into contact with the syphilis sore on your partner’s mouth, vagina, or anus. Transmitting syphilis from mouth to mouth contact, like kissing, is very rare.

How do you know if you have it?

Many people with syphilis have no signs. When signs of infection do happen, they usually take two to three weeks to appear. If left untreated, syphilis will go through different stages.


Usually, testing is done by taking a sample of blood, but if you have a sore, the medical practitioner might take a swab of the sore. A test for syphilis will not show up positive until 3-4 weeks after the bacteria has been transmitted.


Syphilis is very easy to treat using antibiotics during the early stages. Syphilis can be treated during the later stages as well using a different length and dosage of antibiotics. But remember, once syphilis starts causing problems with your organs, the damage that is done cannot be undone, so it’s important to get tested regularly.

Looking to get tested?

To know for sure if you have Syphilis, you need to get tested. We know that visiting a clinic can be a stressful and overwhelming process for some folks – click here to find a place to get tested near you. Visit our Services and Supports Near You page for clinics and organizations that offer culturally relevant and trauma informed services.

Find Testing Near You

Symptoms, Treatment and Resources

Click below to download NWAC’s Syphilis Fact Sheet to access this information in a PDF format where you can find a full list of references.

Syphilis Fact Sheet (648 KB)