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Beethoven & Al Capone are making “syphistory”


What do Van Gogh, Henry VIII, Leo Tolstoy and Al Capone have in common? Syphilis. And while they’re history, syphilis is not. In fact syphilis rates in BC keep going up.

Syphilis is a potentially deadly sexually transmitted infection caused by a germ. Syphilis can cause blindness, mental illness, problems with the heart and nervous system and even death.

Most people who are diagnosed have no symptoms. Those who do typically show:

  • A painless sore around the genitals, mouth, rectum or vagina

  • A rash that can occur on the chest, palms of the hands and soles of the feet

  • If the sore is present, syphilis can be spread through direct contact with it, such as through oral, anal or vaginal sex. Both the rash and the sore will go away on their own even without treatment, though the person will still be infected by the illness.

What you can do

  • If you are sexually active get tested every three to six months.

  • Regular use of condoms will reduce the risk of picking up or passing on both syphilis and HIV, though contact with a sore outside of the area covered by a condom can still cause syphilis infection.

  • Syphilis is often passed along by people who don’t have symptoms and who don’t know they are infected.

  • If you are sexually active get tested every 3-6 months. You can get tested at VCH community health centres, at your family doctor, or to find a clinic near you check out Smart Sex Resource.

  • Don’t have sex with someone if they have symptoms or if they are being treated for syphilis until their treatment is complete.


  • In BC, most syphilis infections are in gay, queer, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (cis and trans).

  • The highest infection rates are among younger men (20-39 years).

  • About 1/2 of all infections are in gay men who are also living with HIV.

  • If you have syphilis in its earlier stages, the chance of passing it to a partner is about 30%.

For more information

Check out for more facts and test your syphilis knowledge!

SOURCE: Beethoven & Al Capone are making “syphistory” ( )
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