Jamie (East Midlands)

I hadn’t visited an STI clinic for almost a year. Whilst I usually go every three months, I hadn’t been having much sex and was in between surgeries, so it didn’t feel necessary or important to stick to my usual routine. Since starting the process of transitioning as trans, I started visiting places where I could be more sexually adventurous. A few weeks after visiting a particular venue, I started to get headaches and noticed a small rash on my stomach. I visited my HPV Test GP, who said it was a strep infection, and after a few weeks, the rash went away.

Looking back, I wonder if those were symptoms of syphilis. Others have told me that GPs sometimes overlook symptoms like rashes, especially when not severe.

After the surgery

I decided it was time to go for a sexual health check-up after the surgery. And during that appointment, they diagnosed me with syphilis, not HPV. The clinic told me it was a second stage or secondary syphilis, meaning that I had had it for a few months, at least.

Because I mostly have sex with people I don’t know or cannot be in touch with, I wasn’t able to let most of my sexual partners know that I’d had it. The one person I could get in touch with had recently also been tested for syphilis and had also tested positive for HPV.

I felt nervous having that conversation with them. What if they’d got it from me? I mean, I could’ve also got it from them! But I didn’t know I had it and didn’t do anything wrong. And I’m glad I could contact that person and tell them it was time for a check-up.

There’s not enough information about syphilis and other STIs for trans people. It might be that, as with HIV, trans people have a greater susceptibility to syphilis. I know that starting to have sex in different networks of people means that my sexual practice and possible exposure have changed.

Getting diagnosed with syphilis didn’t surprise me. But it has reminded me why sticking to regular STI testing is important. It’s also reminded me that I don’t need to be having lots of sex to be exposed to an STI.

Aaron (London)

In Aaron’s Syphilis Story, he talks about how he had very prominent symptoms, which isn’t always the case.

I went to a chemsex party. I don’t visit them often, maybe once or twice a year. A couple of days afterwards, I had a pain in my groin, sores in my mouth and discharge in my penis.

Something was wrong, so I ordered a self-test HPV and STD profile kit online. I sent it off, and three or four days later, my results came back saying I had syphilis, and it also said I had gonorrhoea in my throat.

I promptly informed the guys at the party and urged them to get HPV tested. They all took it well and appreciated my concern.

I visited my local sexual health clinic for STD treatment. It’s convenient and easily accessible, and the treatment has minimal side effects.

Instead of penicillin injections, I was offered oral antibiotics. This option is available for those allergic to penicillin, like me.

After a follow-up appointment at the clinic, I tested negative this time. Everything’s sorted!

My doctor emphasized that syphilis often shows no symptoms. Regular testing every 3-6 months is crucial to catch it early.

Mike (London)

In Mike’s Syphilis Story, he talks about how one of his major symptoms went completely unnoticed because having a very similar issue a few months before.

About 5 years ago, I had a really bad rash from head to toe for about two or three months from when my psoriasis flared up. So, when I got another rash, I thought it was psoriasis again even though it looked completely different; it still covered me from head to toe, but it was a lot redder. On top of this, I had a fever and really bad aches and pains in my back and in my knees, too. It sucked because I was heading to Fire Island for a friend’s wedding.

Everything was so painful that I struggled to sleep. I couldn’t figure out what it was for my life. The fever was intense for only a day, and the rash disappeared after a month. I saw a different GP who misdiagnosed it, and it didn’t work out that it was syphilis. If I had seen my regular GP, she may have picked it up because I could have discussed my other symptoms.

I then thought that because I had psoriasis, I was getting arthritis as my feet had swollen up so badly. Also, I had an appointment with an arthritis specialist, and the joint pain disappeared.

I went for an HPV sexual health screening because I hadn’t tested for about 6 months. And I have an open relationship with my husband, and he tested positive for gonorrhoea.

I looked up the symptoms, and finally, everything made sense! I got treatment, and everything was fine. Now, I make sure to get STDs checked every 3 months to stay on the safe side.


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