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Syphilis Prevention: How To Avoid the Spread of the Disease

Medically reviewed by Mae Charisse Antalan, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Gerard Tamayo · Updated Dec 19, 2022

Syphilis Prevention: How To Avoid the Spread of the Disease

To ensure syphilis prevention, we must understand how it is transmitted. Syphilis spreads through direct contact with a syphilis sore, usually through sexual activity.  Indirect contact does not transmit the disease. Following this, sharing eating utensils, using the same toilet, or coming in contact with any of the things of a person with syphilis will not transmit the disease.

How Does Syphilis Spread?

Syphilis spreads primarily through unprotected sexual contact. This includes anal, oral, and vaginal sex. The risk of this increases when people do not use safe sexual practices. This includes having several sexual partners.

Syphilis transmission has also been highly associated with men having sex with men (MSM).

The infection may also spread through vertical transmission, or from a pregnant mother to the unborn fetus via the placenta. Syphilis may be transmitted through delivery. This happens when the baby passes through the birth canal and comes in contact with a syphilis sore. The infection may also spread through blood via needle prick injuries and sharing of needles. An example is in the case of people who use use illicit IV drugs.

Syphilis Prevention Through Safe Sexual Practices

How to Use Condoms for Syphilis Prevention

Use male condoms to minimize the risk of contracting syphilis during sexual intercourse. Whether you’re a male having sex with a female or another male, it is important that you use barrier contraceptives correctly.

To properly use a condom:

  1. Use the condom every time you have sexual intercourse.
  2. Put on the condom every time you have sexual intercourse, and keep it on throughout.
  3. Check the expiration date of the condom, as expired condoms may be dry and prone to breaking during sexual intercourse.
  4. Inspect the condom prior to using it, checking for tears or defects that may be present. If so, discard it and use another condom.
  5. Store your condoms in a cool and dry place.
  6. Be sure that the condoms you are using are made of latex or polyurethane.
  7. Use water or silicone-based lubricants in order to prevent your condom from breaking during sexual intercourse.
  8. DO NOT reuse condoms.

How Do I Know If I Am at Risk of Developing Syphilis?

High risk sexual behaviors makes infection more likely. These include:

  • Engaging in unprotected sex with multiple partners
  • Knowingly having sex with an infected partner
  • Having unprotected sex with other men
  • Using illicit IV drugs

In the hospital setting, accidentally pricking your finger with an infected needle can increase the likelihood that you have contracted the infection.

Pregnant patients may also undergo screening for syphilis early on in their pregnancy, or before they become pregnant.

It is important to undergo screening for syphilis prevention.

Key Takeaways

Since syphilis spreads via direct contact with the syphilis sore, safe sex practices are important in syphilis prevention. Use condoms and limit sexual partners. Avoid having sex if you display symptoms, or believe you may have syphilis.

Apply for syphilis testing if you believe you might have it, even if you are asymptomatic.

Pregnant women should test for syphilis in order to prevent the vertical transmission of syphilis.

In the healthcare setting, report accidents with needle pricks and those injured should undergo screening for syphilis.


Learn more about Syphilis here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Mae Charisse Antalan, MD

General Practitioner

Written by Gerard Tamayo · Updated Dec 19, 2022

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