You may have heard recently about the rise in syphilis cases which halted porn production in the UK. Read on to find out what syphilis is, why it’s such a concern to those working in the adult industry and what you need to be aware of, particularly if you are a model who works with others.
What is Syphilis?
Syphilis is an STI caused by bacteria which is usually spread by skin to skin contact during vaginal, anal, and oral intercourse. There are four different stages to the infection; primary secondary, latent and tertiary. Each of these stages has different signs and symptoms, which makes it a tricky infection to recognise.
Primary syphilis arises 3 -4 weeks after infection, but it can take longer for any symptoms to appear. The main symptom is a sore where the bacteria entered the body. These sores are usually painless and in difficult to see areas. The sores typically go away by themselves but if left untreated, the person is still highly infectious.
Secondary syphilis has the symptoms which point to an active infection including rash/sores on the body, fever, enlarged lymph nodes and fatigue. Secondary syphilis usually starts 7 -10 weeks after the initial infection and can last 6 months of more.
If left untreated, the infection can become latent, which mean it stays in the body, usually with no symptoms, in a kind of sleeping mode. It is really important to note that the person is still infectious for the first year or two after infection. Without treatment, latent syphilis can develop into the tertiary stage of the infection, with the bacteria damaging multiple major organs and functions, 5 -20 years after the initial infection.
What is the situation in Europe?
Syphilis is rare in Australia, however, there have been increasing cases in recent years. In Europe, there have been surges in cases over the past 10 years, with the most recent being in September of 2022. The Performer Availability Screening Service (PASS) released information at this time that three cases had been detected amongst adult performers.
PASS points out that there is no standardised testing for adult performers in Europe, which makes it difficult to track infections and keep performers safe. They also mention that they do not have authority in Europe to halt productions, and can only share information they receive. In an industry which is rapidly becoming global, it is vital that accurate information sharing is developed to ensure the safety of performers.
What you need to be aware of
If you are sexually active, it is important to have regular screenings for STIs. If you are performing with others, it is important that these screenings are frequent, even if you are not a professional. Professionals in Europe screen every 7 – 14 days, and every 28 days in the UK, so keep this in mind when working out your screening schedule.
As syphilis can be present with little or no symptoms, you cannot be complacent about testing, especially during this time as cases appear to be increasing.
If you test positive for syphilis, you need to abstain from sex until your treatment is complete and you are given clearance. It is a highly transmissible infection, and you can be infectious for a long time after your initial exposure. It is easily treatable with antibiotics once diagnosed, and the treatment decreases the risk of it developing further. As with other STIs, if you are diagnosed, you need to inform those you have had sex with, so that they can be tested also.
Rem Sequence is an Australian adult content creator, blogger and internationally published alt model. She has a background in psychology, philosophy and political science and has worked in health and sex education, youth work and trauma counseling for almost two decades. Contact Rem via firstname.lastname@example.org and visit her on Twitter @remsequence.