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Syphilis risk

Syphilis is on the rise in BC and gay men are the most at risk, says the BC Centre for Disease Control.

Dr Mark Gilbert says the number of syphilis cases has been growing in this province and other parts of North America since 2003.

Gilbert says about half the cases reported in BC are gay men, and two thirds of these men are HIV-positive.

“It’s because [men with HIV] are seeking out other HIV-positive guys to have sex with,” Gilbert says, explaining these men are less likely to use condoms since they’re both positive.

Gilbert says it’s important for gay and bisexual men, regardless of their HIV status, to wear condoms during sex as they reduce the risk of sexually transmitted illnesses (STIs). He emphasizes that STIs can also be transmitted through oral sex.

Regular testing is key to combat the epidemic, says Glyn Townson, chair of the BC Persons with AIDS Society.

“If you’re having sex with multiple partners —and it isn’t safe sex —it’s quite likely you will come down with syphilis at this time,” he says.

Syphilis is easily treated, but if left unchecked can cause loss of hearing, loss of vision, stroke or death.