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Sexuality Education Resource Centre

What is syphilis?

Dear Ate Anna:

I hear a lot about something called syphilis on the news. What is that?

A Reader

Dear Reader:

Thank you for your question!

Syphilis has been in the news a lot lately. This is because there is new information available on how syphilis is affecting people in Manitoba.

Syphilis is a bacteria which, if a person has it, can cause health problems in their body. Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection; this means that it can be passed from one person who has syphilis to another person through sexual contact.

The only way to know if a person has syphilis is to get a syphilis test. If you have a Manitoba Health Card, this test is free and you can get it through your health care provider or a community health centre. Some people who have syphilis may have symptoms including sores on their genital area, their bum area, and/or their mouth. It is very important to know that somebody might have syphilis while not having any symptoms. So a test is very important.

The reason that syphilis has been in the news a lot lately is because the number of people in Manitoba who have syphilis has increased quite quickly over the last few years. According to the CBC, there was more than double the number of confirmed cases of syphilis in Manitoba in 2018 than in 2014.

Syphilis can be very harmful to a person’s health. If left untreated it can become very serious and damage a person’s internal organs. It is also very concerning if a pregnant person has untreated syphilis, because it can very seriously affect the health of the baby when it is born.

The good news is that the transmission of syphilis can be prevented. Safer sex barriers such as condoms can be used in order to protect from transmission from one person to another during sexual activities. Condoms and dams can also be used during oral sex to prevent transmission. Be sure to know how to use these supplies. You can find more information on this on our website at

Remember, the only way to know if you have syphilis is to get tested. Testing is free with a Manitoba Health card with your health care provider or a community health centre. Using safer sex barriers correctly can prevent transmission of syphilis from one person to another. Be sure to have condoms and dams available, and know how to use them! It is always good to be prepared.

Ate Anna

Ate Anna welcomes your questions and comments. Please write to: Ate Anna, Suite 200-226 Osborne St. N., Winnipeg, MB R3C 1V4 or e-mail, Visit us at for reliable information and links on the subject of sexuality.

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