What's in this article?
What is Syphilis?
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection. It is caused by a type of bacteria known as Treponema pallidum. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2006, more than 36,000 cases of syphilis were reported in the United States. According to statistics from the Mayo Clinic, the rate of syphilis among homosexual men has been rising consistently since 2000.
The first sign of syphilis is a small, painless sore. It can appear on your sexual organs, rectum, or inside your mouth. This sore is called a chancre. Often, people fail to notice it right away.
Syphilis can be tricky to diagnose. An infected person can go years without showing any symptoms. However, the earlier you discover the infection, the better it is. Syphilis that remains untreated for a long period can cause major damage to important organs, like the heart and brain.
Syphilis is only spread through intimate contact. It cannot be transmitted by (for example) sharing a toilet with another person, wearing their clothes, or using their eating utensils.
Causes of Syphilis
The cause of syphilis is a bacterium called Treponema pallidum. The most common route of transmission is through contact with an infected person’s sore during sexual activity. The bacteria enter your body through minor cuts or abrasions in your skin or mucous membranes. Syphilis is contagious during its primary and secondary stages, and sometimes in the early latent period.
Less commonly, syphilis may spread through direct unprotected close contact with an active lesion (such as during kissing) or through an infected mother to her baby during pregnancy or childbirth (congenital syphilis).
Once cured, syphilis doesn’t recur. However, you can become reinfected if you have contact with someone’s syphilis sore.
Primary and secondary syphilis are easy to treat with a penicillin injection. Penicillin is one of the most widely used antibiotics. It is usually effective in treating syphilis. People that are allergic to penicillin will be treated with a different oral antibiotic, such as tetracycline.
What is HIV?
HIV attacks the body’s immune system, specifically the CD4 cells (T cells), which help the immune system fight off infections. If left untreated, HIV reduces the number of CD4 cells (T cells) in the body, making the person more likely to get infections or infection-related cancers. Over time, HIV can destroy so many of these cells that the body can’t fight off infections and disease. These opportunistic infections or cancers take advantage of a very weak immune system and signal that the person has AIDS, the last state of HIV infection.
Causes of HIV
HIV is a retrovirus that infects the vital organs and cells of the human immune system.
The virus progresses in the absence of antiretroviral therapy (ART) – a drug therapy that slows or prevents the growth of new HIV viruses.
The rate of virus progression varies widely between individuals and depends on many factors;
These factors include the age of the patient, the body’s ability to defend against HIV, access to healthcare, existence of other infections, the infected person’s genetic inheritance, resistance to certain strains of HIV, and more.
No effective cure currently exists for HIV. But with proper medical care, HIV can be controlled. Treatment for HIV is called antiretroviral therapy or ART. If taken the right way, every day, ART can dramatically prolong the lives of many people infected with HIV, keep them healthy, and greatly lower their chance of infecting others. Before the introduction of ART in the mid-1990s, people with HIV could progress to AIDS (the last stage of HIV infection) in a few years. Today, someone diagnosed with HIV and treated before the disease is far advanced can live nearly as long as someone who does not have HIV.
Difference Between HIV and Syphilis
The difference between syphilis and HIV infection is complex and remains incompletely understood, despite there being more than 2-decades of clinical experience with co-infected patients. Since its last review in this journal, new data have emerged increasing our understanding of the interaction between HIV infection and syphilis that apply to both the heterosexual population and men who have sex with men (MSM).