Since 2012, Winnipeg has been hit by an outbreak of syphilis, primarily among men having sex with other men. This group remains at high risk, but there are signs that syphilis has moved into heterosexual networks.
We recommend that health care providers test sexually-active women who have sex with men, especially if they are seeking testing for other sexually-transmitted infections. Syphilis infection has been reported among women in most neighbourhoods, but with higher counts in the Downtown, Point Douglas, and St. Boniface areas. Syphilis can be dangerous and deadly in children born to syphilis-infected mothers.
We still recommend testing for men who have sex with casual or anonymous male partners every 3 months. Public Health will send out a call when testing can go back to normal for both men and women. Encouragingly, rates have not increased in the last 12 months, but they remain high.
Syphilis is more contagious than HIV, and can spread through all kinds of sex. It is also easy to spread because the symptoms are sometimes hard to identify, including painless sores inside the vagina, rectum, and/or mouth. Luckily, it’s easier than ever to get tested and treated.
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