Syphilis in MSM (Men Who Have Sex with Men) - Minnesota Dept. of Health

Syphilis in MSM (Men Who Have Sex with Men)

On this page:

Fact sheets
Important information for MSM
Complications: Ocular syphilis
Syphilis prevention for MSM
Testing and treatment
Partner notification

Fact sheets

Important information for MSM

  • In men, sores occur mainly on the external genitals, the anus, or in the rectum. Sores also can occur on the lips and in the mouth.
  • You can get infected with syphilis during anal or oral sex, as well as vaginal sex.
  • Sometimes sores can occur in areas not covered by a condom, so you could still get syphilis from contact with these sores, even if you are wearing a condom.
  • You cannot get syphilis through casual contact with objects such as toilet seats, doorknobs, swimming pools, hot tubs, bathtubs, shared clothing, or eating utensils.

Complications: Ocular syphilis

  • Ocular syphilis occurs when syphilis affects the eye and can lead to permanent blindness. 
  • Cases of ocular syphilis have also been reported among MSM.

Syphilis prevention for MSM

  • The only way to completely avoid getting syphilis or other STDs is to not have anal, oral, or vaginal sex.
  • If you are sexually active you can reduce your chances of getting syphilis by:
    • Using latex condoms the right way every time you have sex.
    • Condoms prevent the spread of syphilis by preventing contact with a sore. Sometimes sores can occur in areas not covered by a condom, so you could still get syphilis from contact with these sores, even if you are wearing a condom.
    • Being in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested and has negative STD test results.
    • Washing your genitals or urinating after sex will not protect you.
    • Having syphilis once does not protect you from getting it again. Once you have been successfully treated, you can be re-infected.

    Testing and treatment

Get tested regularly. 

  • You can get a test from a health care provider, or your family doctor.
  • Getting Tested for STDs and HIV
    Resources for finding STD testing clinics in your area. 

Partner notification

Always notify sex partners immediately if you are infected. It is important to make sure all partners are tested and treated.

Content Notice: This site contains HIV or STD prevention messages that may not be appropriate for all audiences. Since HIV and other STDs are spread primarily through sexual practices or by sharing needles, prevention messages and programs may address these topics. If you are not seeking such information or may be offended by such materials, please exit this web site.

Updated Friday, 07-Apr-2017 13:36:37 CDT