Rising Cases of Syphilis Among Women and Infants

May 23, 2023

Arizona has been grappling with a concerning trend of high rates of babies born with syphilis. According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, the state had a rate of 34.6 cases of congenital syphilis per 100,000 live births in 2019, nearly double the national rate. This is a worrying trend because syphilis can be easily prevented and treated with appropriate prenatal care and screening. If left untreated, syphilis can cause brain and nerve problems, eye problems, and even blindness, making prevention of this sexually transmitted infection extremely important. 

To prevent the transmission of syphilis from mother to baby, regular prenatal care and screening are crucial. All pregnant women should be screened for syphilis early in their pregnancy and again in the third trimester. If a woman tests positive for syphilis, she can receive antibiotic treatment to prevent transmission to her baby. Additionally, individuals who are sexually active should practice safe sex and get regular STI testing, particularly if they have multiple partners or engage in high-risk sexual behaviors.

For individuals in Arizona who may be concerned about STIs, several resources are available:

  1.  Arizona Family Health Partnership: The Arizona Family Health Partnership offers low-cost or free STI testing and family planning services to uninsured and underinsured individuals throughout the state. They have over 100 clinics across Arizona and also provide telemedicine services.
  2.  Arizona Department of Health Services: The Arizona Department of Health Services offers information on how to protect oneself from STDs and a list of clinics and healthcare providers that offer testing and treatment for STIs. They also provide information on prevention methods such as condoms and PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) for HIV.
  3. Native Health: Native Health is a community health center that provides medical, dental, and behavioral health services to individuals in the Phoenix area. They offer STI testing, treatment, education, and prevention services.
  4. Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program: The Arizona Department of Health Services Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program offers education and resources to young people to help them make informed decisions about their sexual health and prevent unplanned pregnancies and STIs.
  5. Arizona State University Health Services: Arizona State University Health Services offers STI testing and treatment to students at their clinics on the Tempe, Downtown Phoenix, and Polytechnic campuses. They also provide education and prevention services to promote healthy sexual behaviors.
  6. Planned Parenthood Arizona: Planned Parenthood Arizona offers STI testing and treatment, as well as contraception and other reproductive health services, at their clinics throughout the state. They offer a sliding fee scale for those who are uninsured or underinsured.

Seeking prenatal care and testing is crucial to ensure the health of both the mother and the baby, as syphilis can lead to serious health complications if left untreated.

The high rates of babies born with syphilis in Arizona are a cause for concern. Still, the disease is preventable and treatable with appropriate medical care. Regular prenatal care and screening, safe sex practices, and regular STI testing are all crucial in preventing the transmission of syphilis and other STIs. Individuals concerned about STIs should seek out resources such as low-cost or free testing and family planning services to protect their health and the health of their partners.