Syphilis - Get Tested

If you're a man having sex with other men in Winnipeg, you should know that right now the city is going through a syphilis outbreak.


In the last couple of decades, syphilis has been making a comeback in Canada and around the world. The good news? Nowadays it's easier than ever to get tested and treated. A simple blood test at your health care provider’s office or a walk-in clinic can diagnose syphilis. And if you test positive, syphilis is totally curable with antibiotics.


Last September, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA) sounded the alarm that the number of new syphilis cases in a month had doubled from the typical two up to four. This past March, the number of new cases hit twelve. That’s a 600% increase from the norm, and the highest number of new cases in a month since the 1980s.


How often should I get tested?

A lot of gay and bisexual-identified men get tested every 6 to 12 months. Starting February 2015 and until the outbreak is over, we recommend that ALL men in Winnipeg who have sex with casual or anonymous male partners test every 3 months. Catching syphilis earlier will cut down on its ability to spread. Public Health will send out another call when testing can go back to normal, hopefully in the next year or two.

How do I get tested?

Testing is usually done through a blood test at your health care provider’s office or a clinic.

Is testing and treatment free?

Testing is free for residents of Manitoba. Take your health numbers with you if you are going to a new doctor, nurse practitioner, or nurse.

What if I don’t have my health number?

If you don’t know or don’t have your health number many clinics will see you anyway. If your health care provider saw you before, they should have your health number on file. Call ahead or ask if you don’t have your health number.

You can learn about getting a personal copy of the Manitoba Health Registration Certificate at

Is testing confidential?

Regardless of your age, health care providers are not allowed to tell anyone about your visit unless they:

  • Have your permission;

  • Feel you are not able to understand medical advice or the consequences of your decisions; or

  • Suspect that you’ve been abused (if you’re under 18), in which case they are required by law to report to Child and Family Services (CFS).

If you don’t trust the doctor, nurse practitioner, or nurse, you can leave.

What will happen when I go for testing?

The health care provider will talk to you about concerns you may have, body parts (throat, vagina, penis, anus) that need to be examined, symptoms, and safer sex practices. YOU CAN ASK FOR A BLOOD TEST ONLY.

If you’d also like a complete sexual health examination, the health care provider will ask you to undress from the waist down and will give you a drape to cover yourself. A good sexual health examination includes the following:

  • Examine the outside of the genitals.

  • Take a urine sample.

  • If you have had oral or anal sex, take a swab from the throat or anus.

  • Take a blood sample.

  • For male bodies, feel the testicles and penis.

  • For female bodies, an internal exam includes putting a speculum into the vagina to look inside of the vagina and cervix, a Pap test (they take samples from the cervix to check for changes) and a bimanual exam (the health care provider places one or two fingers inside the vagina and their other hand on the lower abdomen in order to feel the ovaries and uterus)

Remember, you are the one who has asked for testing. You have the right to ask the health care provider to do only those things you are comfortable with.