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.


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.

Explore this site for more information.

If you are a health care provider, or would like more information on syphilis epidemiology and management, click here.