Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI), also called a sexually transmitted disease (STD), that you can get during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. If you’re pregnant and have syphilis, you can pass it to your baby.

If you’re sexually active, have an honest and open talk with your doctor or nurse. Ask them if you should get tested for syphilis or other STIs. 

Get tested for syphilis if you:

  • Are pregnant
  • Are a man who has sex with men
  • Are living with HIV (also called being HIV-positive) or another STI
  • Use drugs
  • Do sex work
  • Have ever been in prison

Some people who get syphilis don’t notice any symptoms. The only way to know if you have syphilis is to get tested.

If it’s not treated, syphilis can lead to serious health problems — and even death. Medicine can cure syphilis, but it can’t undo any damage that syphilis has already caused. That’s why it’s important to get tested regularly if you’re at risk.

What if I’ve had syphilis before?

Being treated for syphilis once doesn’t protect you from getting it again. It’s possible to get syphilis again after you’ve been cured, so ask your doctor if you need to be tested again.

What about cost?

Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance plans must cover syphilis testing for adults at higher risk for syphilis and all pregnant people. Depending on your insurance plan, you may be able to get tested at no cost to you. Check with your insurance company to find out more.

What do I ask the doctor?

When you visit the doctor, it helps to have questions written down ahead of time. You can also ask a family member or friend to go with you to take notes. 

Print this list of questions and take it with you to your appointment.

  • Am I at risk for syphilis?
  • Do I need to get tested for syphilis?
  • How often do you recommend I get tested for syphilis?
  • What happens during the test?
  • How will I find out my test results?
  • When will I get my test results?
  • If I have syphilis, what will happen next?
  • Can you give me some information about syphilis to take home with me?