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Resolve to engage in healthier sex practices in 2014 and beyond

SAN DIEGO -- With syphilis a continued problem in San Diego's gay community, healthier sex practices should be a priority for all sexually active individuals into 2014 and beyond, health officials say.

Over the past several years, syphilis reports among gay men have increased in various cities, including San Diego. In the recent outbreaks, 20% to 70% of gay men with syphilis also had HIV. Not only are the health problems caused by syphilis considered serious, the genital sores caused by syphilis also make it easier to acquire or transmit the HIV virus.

Gay Men’s Health Services of Family Health Centers of San Diego has created a campaign to help educate the community about syphilis, and provides several resources and opportunities to get tested for syphilis and other STDs.

The health promotion campaign encourages those who are “looking for a man” to also look for signs of syphilis. Symptoms include a rash on the upper body, palms and soles of the feet.

The bacteria are spread through direct skin-to-skin contact with sores during sex with an infected person. It can be transmitted by giving or receiving unprotected anal, vaginal or oral sex. It is NOT transmitted through casual contact such as hugging, sharing food or drinks, using the same eating utensils, sitting on public toilets, or touching door knobs.

The three stages of syphilis range from mild to severe, which means that early detection and treatment is important. Syphilis is caused by bacteria, so it is curable.

Click here to read about the three stages of syphilis.

How to stay healthy

Those who are sexually active should get tested for syphilis every three months. Condoms can help reduce or eliminate the risk of transmission when used correctly. Only the areas covered by condoms, dental dams or gloves are protected from infection. Avoid skin-to-skin contact with any sores or rashes.

There are several testing sites available throughout San Diego County, including North County and South Bay. Click HERE to locate a testing site.

Convenient testing locations include the Tuesday/Thursday Night Clinic (TNC2) at 3544 30th St. in North Park, which accepts walk-ins every Tuesday and Thursday night from 5:30 to 9 pm (appointments are recommended though, at 619-515-2449).

The County of San Diego Health Services Complex at 3851 Rosecrans St., Suite S also provides testing on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays from 7:30 am to 4 pm; Wednesdays from 11 am to 7 pm; and Thursdays from 10 am to 4 pm. For more information, click HERE

Those who are sexually active can also sign-up for free STD testing reminders via e-mail or text

Additional information about syphilis symptoms, prevention, testing and treatment options is available HERE or by calling 619-692-8501.