In a nutshell

  • This is an infection that is caused by bacteria.
  • It is mainly transmitted in the following two ways
    • during sexual intercourse where the penis penetrates the mouth, the vagina or the anus;
    • from intimate contact (skin-to-skin) with a lesion.
  • Cases of syphilis had become fairly rare, but they have been constantly increasing in Quebec for 10 years.
  • The risk of an infected person transmitting the infection is higher in the first year after he or she has contracted it.

Symptoms and complications

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Many persons infected with syphilis do not show any symptoms.

If symptoms show up, they are as follows:

A short time after contracting the infection:

  • painless ulcers that are generally located on the genital organs, the anus, in the mouth or the throat. These ulcers get better spontaneously in a few weeks but the infection stays in the organism.

At a more advanced stage of syphilis:

  • symptoms similar to those of flu, such as fever, coughing, headache, aches and pain, fatigue, nausea and vomiting;
  • the appearance of redness or pimples on the palm of the hands, soles of the feet or elsewhere on the body.
  • these symptoms disappear spontaneously a few months after they appear but the infection stays in the organism.

Possible consequences for health:

  • Damage to the heart, the brain, the bones and the liver.
  • Increased risk of contracting or transmitting HIV.

Screening and treatment

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  • The screening test is carried out by means of a blood sample.


  • Syphilis is treated by means of antibiotics.
  • You must avoid having sexual intercourse until your blood samples show that the infection has been cured. This can take several months. If, despite everything, you want to have sexual intercourse, you must use a condom.


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  • When you have sexual intercourse, use a condom.
    • A condom must be used before any contact of the penis with the mouth, the vagina or the anus.
    • A condom must be used from start to finish of sexual intercours.
  • To avoid blood-borne transmission, the best thing is still obviously not to inject or inhale drugs.
  • If you consume drugs by injection or inhalation, avoid reuse of equipment.

In terms of figures :

25 % of those infected with HIV don’t know they are

Getting help

To get a screening test

  • Call Info-Santé 8-1-1
  • Talk it over with the nurse in your school or CLSC
  • Talk it over with your doctor


For any
other question

Consult Tel-jeunes

Tel-Jeunes Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux