270 STIs and Other Infections of the Genitals
Sores on the
➤ If you have ever
had an open sore
on your genitals that
was not treated, try
to get a blood test
for syphilis. Some
countries have free
➤ If you are
pregnant, try to get a
blood test for syphilis.
Common causes of sores on the genitals
Most sores or ulcers on the genitals are sexually transmitted. It
is difficult to know which disease is causing the sores because the
ones caused by both syphilis and chancroid often look alike. For
this reason, it is best to give medicines that cure both of these STIs
when treating genital sores (see box on page 271).
IMPORTANT HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, can easily pass
through a sore on the genitals during sex. To help prevent the
spread of HIV, do not have sex when you have a sore, or when your
partner has one.
Syphilis is a serious STI that has effects throughout the body
and can last for many years. It is caused by bacteria and can be
cured with medicine if treated early.
• The first sign is a small, painless sore
that can look like a pimple, a flat, wet
wart, or an open sore.
The sore lasts for only a few days or
weeks and then goes away by itself.
But the disease continues to spread
throughout the body.
• Weeks or months later, you may have a sore throat, fever,
rash (especially on the palms of the hands and soles of the
feet), mouth sores, or swollen joints.
All of these signs go away by themselves, but the disease
continues. Even if you have no signs, you can still pass syphilis
to others. Without treatment, syphilis can cause heart disease,
paralysis, mental illness, and even death.
Pregnancy and syphilis. A pregnant woman can pass syphilis to her
unborn baby, which can cause it to be born too early, deformed, or
dead. You can prevent this by getting a blood test and treatment
during pregnancy. If a pregnant woman and her partner have
blood tests that show they have syphilis, they should both be
treated with benzathine penicillin, 2.4 million Units, by injection
(IM), once a week for 3 weeks.
Where Women Have No Doctor 2012