New campaign aims to reduce the increasing rates of syphilis

The WA AIDS Council (WAAC) has launched a major sexual health online campaign to target the alarming rise in syphilis infections in Perth and elsewhere in Western Australia.

The educational digital campaign – Syphilis is Making a Comeback – is aimed at preventing new infections of the sexually transmitted disease, and has been prompted following recent figures which show a threefold increase in infections between 2015 and 2019 in the metropolitan area, and a six-fold increase in women of childbearing age.

With a call to action for West Australians to undergo regular testing, the campaign aims to create greater awareness around the spread of the STI and will target thousands of West Australians of all ages.

CEO of WAAC, Lisa Dobrin, says that according to the WA Health Department’s latest figures, there has been a 23 per cent increase of syphilis notifications in the quarter ending March 31, 2020, compared to the same time last year.

“Since 2015, notification rates have soared, going up 40 per cent for men who have sex with men, and more than doubling in those who identify as heterosexual,” Dobrin said.

The rising trend of syphilis infections in WA is linked to both a national and global increase in the STI. In WA, the infection is increasing rapidly amongst the heterosexual community, and congenital syphilis – where the disease is acquired by the fetus in the uterus before birth – has also re-emerged.

“We want to get the message out there with the hope and intention of preventing further infections; testing is key, as condoms are not always foolproof when it comes to syphilis.” Dobrin said. “However, the good news is that if it’s detected in the early stages – preferably within nine to 90 days of infection – it is easily treatable.”

Syphilis is caused by the bacteria Treponema pallidum which is found in the blood. It can be transmitted through having oral, anal, and vaginal sex, as well as close skin-to-skin contact and through the placenta during pregnancy. If left untreated it can lead to skin lesions, cardiovascular and/or neurological disease.

It presents in four stages, primary, secondary, latent and tertiary, with each stage displaying different symptoms and complications. However, 50 per cent of cases show no symptoms at all, which is why testing is so important.

Find out more about the new campaign.

OIP Staff

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