“This summer there was an increased risk of Syphilis among men having sex with men who are finding their sex partners online, through sex-seeking sites in Anchorage and Fairbanks,” warns the State of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services website.
But what is Syphilis?
“Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease, which is spread during vaginal, anal or oral sex and sometimes by genital touching, with someone who has syphilis. Symptoms include painless sores on the mouth or sex organs that can last up 2-6 weeks. Sores may go away, but you still have syphilis. Symptoms show up 1-12 weeks after having sex,” the Planned Parenthood website states.
Syphilis can be a serious disease if left undiagnosed, but is completely curable.
“It is easy to treat if you are HIV-negative and if you’ve had the infection for less than a year. If you are HIV-negative, early stages of Syphilis are treated with a single dose of Bicillin L-A, a specific type of penicillin. Follow up testing at 6 and 12 months is required to ensure success,” states the Health Interventions for Men program website.
Betty Bang, UAA family nurse practitioner, encourages “students to practice safe sex, even if they only have one sex partner. You simply never know if your partner is having sex with another person who may be infected.”
Also encourages students to be proactive and get tested.
“The UAA Health Center does STD/STI screenings and are reasonably priced around 10 dollars,” said Bang. The health center does take Blue Cross Blue Shield and accepts the United Health insurance through UAA.
Ways to protect yourself from an STD are to use a condom, talk to your partner and don’t have sex with anyone who hasn’t been tested for or thinks they may have an STD.
This February the health clinic will be hosting a Healthy Sexuality fair, in which they will offer free STD testing for gonorrhea, HIV, syphilis and chlamydia.
For more information call or visit UAA Student Health and Counseling Center 907-786-4040 or plannedparenthood.org