As with HIV, using a condom or dental dam for
oral and anal sex is the best prevention against syphilis, an STD on
the rise among some people with HIV (see "The
Secret Life of Syphilis"). For those of you who won't lick latex
or who choose condomless contact with other HIVers, there are other
ways to guard against grievous harm.
THE FEWER, THE MERRIER. "I always tell
people my HIV status, and if they tell me they're positive, we have
natural sex," says Dominic, a New York City HIVer. "But I do play a
numbers game and cut down on my volume of partners." Syphilis, more
infectious than other STDS such as gonorrhea, is particularly associated
with number of partners.
GET TESTY. "I go in at least once a year
for a syphilis test," says Kelly from Salt Lake. "And my doctor is good
-- she asks things like 'Have you been to [syphilis outbreak city] Seattle
lately?' If yes, she says, 'Syphilis test.'" If you're pregnant, make
sure to get tested not only in the first trimester, as the law requires,
but in the third as well; your first test might not have shown an infection
you got at the same time -- or after -- you conceived.
RISK IS ORAL, TOO. It's not just President
Clinton. Says North Carolina STD expert Peter Leone, MD: "When doctors
ask if you've been sexually active, many people only think of intercourse."
When it comes to contracting syphilis, lip service counts.
LOOK BEFORE YOU LICK. "I always give a
partner the once-over," says Dominic. "And if I see something, I ask
-- what's that?"