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Infectious Disease Awareness Behavior Demographics & Statistics

Syphilis Is On The Rise And Many People Don’t Know The Symptoms

1 month, 1 week ago

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Posted on Jun 14, 2024, 1 p.m.

Around the World cases of syphilis are on the rise, which is concerning for many reasons, one of them being that many people don’t know what the symptoms are. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported that cases of syphilis had increased by 80% over the past 5 years to reach over 200,000 cases in 2022.

According to the Annenberg Public Policy Center’s new survey findings on sexually transmitted infections (STIs) involving 1,522 adults, most American adults are familiar with some of the ways they can protect themselves from STIs, however, as cases are increasing, they apparently aren’t using those protection methods, and they lack familiarity with the symptoms and signs of syphilis. 

What do people know about protection?

When asked how people can protect themselves from contracting a sexually transmitted infection, most people got the answers correct and identified ways that would not help correctly.

However, 71% did not know that using only clean needles is one of the ways to protect yourself from contracting syphilis.

78% correctly said that abstinence would protect them from contracting syphilis, and 77% correctly said that using a condom would help prevent contracting an STI. 

94% knew that taking an oral contraceptive would not help, 89% knew that wearing a diaphragm does not protect against infection, and 78% knew that currently there is no vaccine. 

What people don’t know about syphilis

When asked to select the symptoms of syphilis from a list, less than one-third selected any of these symptoms which are all types of syphilis, according to the CDC. 

30% of the respondents correctly selected firm, round, painless sores as a symptom. 28% correctly selected swollen lymph nodes, 27% selected fever, and 16% selected weight loss. 13% selected dizziness or lightheadedness, and 12% selected blurry vision. 

What do people know about HIV?

Most of the respondents were generally knowledgeable about how HIV is spread. 96% knew that it could be spread through unprotected sex, 90% knew it could be spread by sharing needles, and 67% knew that it could be spread from an infected woman when giving birth to her child.

89% knew that it cannot be spread by exposure to airborne droplets, 88% knew that it could not be spread by touching a surface, and 85% knew that it could not be spread by using party poppers. 

Do people know how they can get an STI?

Most of the respondents were aware of how they can become infected with an STI. 98% knew that they could get an STI from engaging in unprotected vaginal sex, 89% knew that they could become infected from oral sex, 93% knew they could become infected from anal sex, and 91% knew that they could get an STI from genital-to-genital contact. 

44% knew that they could catch an STI from kissing (herpes, risk factor for oral gonorrhea), and 21% incorrectly thought that sitting on a toilet seat was a form of transmission. 

Knowledge of treatment and vaccines

Most of the public is aware that 6 out of 8 infections considered in the survey were sexually transmitted infections, including syphilis, HPV, HIV, gonorrhea, genital herpes, and chlamydia.

However, 39% incorrectly thought that mpox (monkeypox) was sexually transmitted and 12% incorrectly thought that Zika was sexually transmitted. 

Additionally, the public is not sure if some of the STIs can be cured or whether there is a vaccine to help prevent them. 65% knew that gonorrhea could be cured, 63% knew that chlamydia could be cured, 54% knew that syphilis could be cured, and although not an STI only 29% knew that mpox could be cured. 

Cure uncertainty 

91% of the respondents were not sure if Zika could be cured or not, 65% were not sure if HPV could be cured or not, 42% were not sure if genital herpes could be cured or not, and 26% were not sure in HIV can be cured or not. 

Vaccine uncertainty

When asked if a vaccine exists to help prevent these infections, 67% were aware that there is an HPV vaccine, and 44% were aware there is a vaccine for mpox. 

80% were not aware that there is no vaccine for the Zika virus; 69% said they were not sure and 11% incorrectly said there was. 

61% did not know that there is no Syphilis vaccine; 45% weren’t sure and 16% thought there was. 

52% did not know that there is no HIV vaccine; 33% were not sure and 19% thought there was.

57% didn’t know there was no vaccine for Gonorrhea; 43% weren’t sure and 14% said there was.

55% did not know that there was no vaccine for genital herpes; 40% were not sure and 15% said there was one. 

59% were not aware that there is no vaccine for chlamydia; 45% were not sure and 14% thought that there was a vaccine. 

Knowledge about other STIs

Only one-third of the respondents knew that HPV can’t be cured, and one-third did not know that there is a vaccine to help prevent it. According to the CDC, the vaccine could potentially prevent more than 90% of HPV-attributable cancers

Most of the respondents have some knowledge about STIs. For example, 91% knew that an infected person can spread an STI to other people even if they have no symptoms.

87% knew that medication can help to control and prevent the progression of HIV in an infected person.

78% knew that an infected woman could pass an STI on to her baby.

69% knew that HPV can lead to cancer in women.

85% knew that you could get an STI from a single sexual exchange.

68% knew that having gonorrhea in the past does not make you immune from getting it again.

“With the rising number of syphilis cases, knowing the causes, symptoms, and treatment for it assumes added importance,” said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) of the University of Pennsylvania.

As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement. Additionally, it is not intended to malign any religion, ethic group, club, organization, company, individual, or anyone or anything. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. 

Content may be edited for style and length.

References/Sources/Materials provided by:

T.W. at WHN

https://www.annenbergpublicpolicycenter.org/syphilis-cases-are-rising-but-many-people-dont-know-symptoms/(STIs).

https://www.cdc.gov/std/statistics/2022/default.htm

https://www.cdc.gov/syphilis/about/index.html

https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/hpv/public/index.html

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