STDs & Safe Sex

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Syphilis

What is it?
A very serious bacterial infection that infects the nervous and cardiovascular systems.

How is it spread?
You can get syphilis if you come in direct contact with a syphilis sore during anal, vaginal, or oral sex. Sores can be found on the penis, vagina, anus, in the rectum, or on the lips and in the mouth.

What are the symptoms?
Syphilis has been called ‘the great imitator’ because it has so many possible symptoms, many of which look like symptoms from other diseases. The painless syphilis sore that you would get after you are first infected can be confused for an ingrown hair, zipper cut, or other seemingly harmless bump. The non-itchy body rash that develops during the second stage of syphilis can show up on the palms of your hands and soles of your feet, all over your body, or in just a few places. You could also be infected with syphilis and have very mild symptoms or none at all.

How is it harmful?
It may lead to paralysis, blindness, insanity, disfiguration, and eventual death. Can also cause severe birth defects to babies whose mothers are infected.

Am I at risk for syphilis?

While any sexually active person can get syphilis through unprotected sex, you should get tested regularly if you are pregnant, are a man who has sex with men, have HIV infection, or have a partner who has tested positive for syphilis.

Can syphilis be cured?
Yes, syphilis can be cured with the right antibiotics from your health care provider. However, treatment will not undo any damage that the infection has already done.



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STDs: The Low Down

STDs are both common and sneaky. One in two sexually active young people will get an STD by age 25, and most of them won’t even know it. That’s because many STDs do not show any symptoms.

How can I protect against STDs?

Abstinence is the best way to protect against STDs. For those that choose to have sex, practice safe sex. That means that guys should use latex condoms during oral, vaginal and anal sex.

Should I get tested for STDs?

STDs are sneaky — often they don’t cause any symptoms, so many infected teens don’t know they’re infected. Click here to see if you should get tested.

Many Reproductive Health Centers throughout Pennsylvania offer free and confidential STD screenings for teens.

Find a teen-friendly health center near you