The issue of sexually transmitted diseases is most frequently brought up in the context of HIV. However, the diseases known for centuries such as syphilis and gonorrhoea, which are now disregarded, can also prove dangerous.

According to the Act on the prevention and combating of infections and infectious diseases in people, when an infection which can be transmitted through sexual contacts is detected, a physician or paramedic is obliged to inform the infected person that his/her sexual partner(s) must see a doctor. The fact of notifying the infected person of this obligation must be confirmed with his/her signature and included in the person’s medical documentation.

Among all STDs, syphilis, gonorrhoea and sexually transmitted Chlamydia infections are on the list of infectious diseases which doctors are obliged to report within 24 hours to the district, border or voivodeship sanitary inspector.


Syphilis is caused by bacteria Treponema pallidum. In most cases it is transmitted through sexual intercourses, but infection can also spread through damaged skin or can be passed on by a pregnant woman to her child (congenital syphilis). The incubation period is from 14 days to 3 months.

When untreated, the disease may lead to multiorgan damage (including the heart and the brain), vision loss, mental diseases or even death.

Syphilis is treated with antibiotics, among others penicillin. After 24 hours from applying the therapy the patient no longer transmits the disease. Condoms are recommended as a preventive measure.

Syphilis – statistics

In 1970 in Poland over 23 thousand cases of syphilis were recorded. Later their number decreased – in 2000 it fell below one thousand, but in the recent years the incidence of the disease has been on the rise again. According to the statistics of the National Institute of Hygiene, in 2013, 1249 people were infected with syphilis. In the previous year 16 cases of congenital syphilis were recorded.

According to the experts, the incidence may be much higher, as the number of serological tests for syphilis has dropped. In 2011 less than 100 thousand blood samples were tested, which accounts for only 2% of the tests carried out 10 years ago. Not all doctors fulfil the obligation to report syphilis cases, so the epidemiological data are incomplete.


Gonorrhoea is a disease caused by an infection with Gram-negative diplococcus Neisseria gonorrhoeae. The infection usually spreads in the mucous membranes of the urethra, cervix, rectum, throat and conjunctiva. The infection is usually transmitted through the direct contact of the secretion of one mucous membrane with another.

Gonorrhoea is often asymptomatic, especially in women. The typical symptoms include discharge from the urethra, vagina or anus, as well as a severe inflammation of the genitourinary system. The infection may also cause tendinitis and tenosynovitis, skin lesions, pharyngitis, etc.

Gonorrhoea, similar as syphilis, is treated with penicillin.

Chlamydia infections

Chlamydia infections are caused by Gram-negative bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis, which is an intracellular parasite. The infection causes, among others, non-gonococcal urethritis, epididymitis, prostatitis and endocervicitis.

Chlamydia infections are most frequently transmitted through sexual contacts, although they can also be acquired through droplet infections or contact with infected water, for instance in a swimming pool. According to the data of the National Institute of Hygiene, in the previous year 306 cases of sexually transmitted Chlamydia infections were reported.

Chlamydia infections are treated with antibiotics.

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