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Spike in syphilis cases good reminder to practise safer sex

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

National News

The number of people with syphilis in New Zealand has more than doubled since 2015 to 470 cases in 2017, the Ministry of Health reports.

This spike is a good reminder to use a condom every time you have sex with a casual partner or with your regular partner.

Syphilis cases in New Zealand have been increasing since 2012, following a wider global trend seen in Australia, the UK and the US.

Men who have sex with men (MSM) are most affected by syphilis, but numbers are also increasing for heterosexual males and females.

For females, the 20-39 age group has seen the highest number of cases in 2017.

If you have had unprotected sex or you have more than one sexual partner, it is a good idea to get an STI test – even if you don’t have any symptoms.


  • Syphilis is a sexually transmissible infection (STI) spread by unprotected sex. It can also be passed through close contact, and from mother to baby during pregnancy or birth.
  • It can be treated with antibiotics
  • Early symptoms are an ulcer - usually on the genitals - and in the second stage can also involve a rash. In its late stages, syphilis can cause damage to the heart, brain and spinal cord.
  • Symptoms will disappear over time even though the disease will continue to develop, so it is important to be tested regularly if you are at risk of STIs.

Family Planning has clinics located throughout New Zealand. Use the clinic finder to find your nearest clinic.

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