The Saint Louis County Department of Public Health is emphasizing the importance of sexually transmitted infection (STI) prevention and testing as reports of syphilis rise in the county.
“Safer sex practices are vital for preventing the contraction and spread of syphilis and other STIs,” said Dr. Fredrick Echols, Director of Communicable Disease Control Services for Saint Louis County Department of Public Health, “Getting tested is also key to maintaining good health. All sexually active individuals should be regularly tested for STIs.”
The Saint Louis County Department of Public Health recommends certain measures sexually active individuals can take to protect themselves from syphilis and other STIs:
- Being in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested for syphilis and does not have syphilis.
- Properly using latex condoms every time you have sex. Condoms prevent the transmission of syphilis by preventing contact with a sore. However, sometimes sores occur in areas not covered by a condom. Be mindful that contact with these sores can still transmit syphilis.
- Visit STLcondoms.com/ as a resource to find locations that offer free condoms across Saint Louis. The site also provides information on how to properly use condoms, as well as where to find local sexual health testing, treatment, and support resources.
While all sexually active individuals can get syphilis and should receive regular testing, men who have sex with men, those living with HIV, and individuals who have a partner that has tested positive for syphilis are especially at risk. Additionally, because of the STI rates in Saint Louis, pregnant women should be tested for syphilis at their first prenatal visit, and re-screened between 28 and 32 weeks and at delivery. Young people between the ages of 15-24 also have the highest rate of new syphilis infections, and should be take this into account when considering testing.
On average, a syphilis infection sore presents itself around three weeks after having vaginal, oral, or anal sex, but it can take between 10-90 days to appear. Also keep in mind that with many STIs, including syphilis, symptoms may also not appear at all, and it is still important to be tested. You can be screened for syphilis by visiting one of many FREE STI testing and treatment sites throughout Saint Louis. To find the location closest to you, visit GetTestedSTL.org.
“STIs are still a prominent health issue here in Saint Louis,” said Dr. Fredrick Echols, “but with advancements in treatment that allow us to cure many STIs and the presence of affordable and accessible health resources, we can work to reduce the number of syphilis infections and increase the overall health of our community.”