Dear Kim: Worried About Syphilis Rates

Dear Kim, 

I keep seeing posts on social media and news articles about syphilis rates. I have heard they have been getting higher and higher, along with other STI’s. Should I be worried? How do I protect myself? 


Playing It Safe 

Dear Safe, 

It’s true. Syphilis rates are higher than they have been in over 70 years. In fact, between 2015 and 2019, reportable STI’s increased by 30%, according to the CDC. This is a big difference from just 20 years ago, when STI’s were at historic lows, and syphilis was nearly eradicated. 

Higher STI rates mean your likelihood of being exposed to one is higher if you are sexually active. If you have sex with a person whose STI status you don’t know, there is a chance you will be exposed to an STI. However, it’s not all gloom and doom. There are ways to protect yourself! 

First, condom use reduces your risk of STI infection by a lot. It’s not perfect, but it helps. Reducing the number of sexual partners you have will reduce your likelihood of exposure. Getting tested regularly can catch STI infections early and treat them, preventing complications and keeping you from transmitting it to another person. Not everyone gets symptoms, so even if you feel fine, if you’re sexually active it’s a good idea to get tested every 6-12 months. 

It is important to know that some STI’s are starting to resist certain antibiotics, which makes them more complicated to treat. That’s not anyone’s idea of a good time. Your best shot at avoiding it if you’re sexually active is to practice safer sex.  

Be well, be yourself! 


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