The Northern Light (11.05.12)
The website for the State of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services cautions that in the summer of 2012, there was an increased risk of syphilis among men having sex with men who found their partners online on websites in Anchorage and Fairbanks.
Symptoms of syphilis appear 1 to 12 weeks after someone has sex with an infected person, and may last 2 to 6 weeks and then disappear, but people can still have the infection. If left untreated, syphilis can be a serious disease; however, it is completely curable. The website for Alaska State Health Interventions for Men Program emphasizes that syphilis is easy to treat if people are HIV-negative and have had the infection for less than a year. Health professionals give a single dose of a particular type of penicillin, called Bicillin L-A, to HIV-negative persons and perform follow-up testing at 6 and 12 months to ensure success.
Family Nurse Practitioner Betty Bang of the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) urges students to be proactive and get tested, and cautions them that even if they practice safe sex and have only one sex partner, they may not know for sure if the partner is infected. She urges students to protect themselves by using condoms, talking to their partners, and not having sex with anyone who has not been tested or thinks that they may have an STD. The UAA Health Center offers STD/STI screening and will be sponsoring a Healthy Sexuality Fair in February of 2013 where it will offer free STD testing. For more information visit the website at http://www.uaa.alaska.edu/studenthealth/ .