Dangerous liaisons — syphilis and HIV in Victoria

David E Leslie, Nasra Higgins and Christopher K Fairley
Med J Aust 2008; 188 (11): . || doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.2008.tb01833.x
Published online: 2 June 2008

To the Editor: In Victoria from 2000 to 2006, infectious syphilis notifications (primary, secondary and early latent infections) increased about 25-fold from 0.2 cases per 100 000 population in 2000 to 4.7 cases per 100 000 population in 2006.1 The number of new diagnoses of HIV has also increased since 2004.1 After observing a few patients presenting with both syphilis and a concurrent new HIV diagnosis, we investigated the association of the two diseases using retrospective laboratory data. As the Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory (VIDRL) incorporates the state HIV reference laboratory and also acts as the reference laboratory for syphilis serological testing, it was possible to identify the HIV status and/or time of HIV diagnosis of 85% of patients identified with infectious syphilis, based on syphilis serological findings and polymerase chain reaction testing as previously described.2

  • 1 Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory, Melbourne, VIC.
  • 2 Communicable Disease Control Unit, Public Health Branch, Department of Human Services, Melbourne, VIC.
  • 3 University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC.


  • 1. Sexually transmissible infections. Victorian Infect Dis Bull 2007; 10 (1): 16-22. (accessed Mar 2008).
  • 2. Leslie DE, Azzato F, Karapanagiotidis T, et al. Development of a real-time PCR assay to detect Treponema pallidum in clinical specimens and assessment of the assay’s performance by comparison with serological testing. J Clin Microbiol 2007; 45: 93-96.
  • 3. Kofoed K, Gerstoft J, Mathiesen LR, Benfield T. Syphilis and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-1 coinfection: influence on CD4 T-cell count, HIV-1 viral load, and treatment response. Sex Transm Dis 2006; 33: 143-148.
  • 4. Zetola NM, Klausner JD. Syphilis and HIV infection: an update. Clin Infect Dis 2007; 44: 1222-1228.
  • 5. Lynn WA, Lightman S. Syphilis and HIV: a dangerous combination. Lancet Infect Dis 2004; 4: 456-466.


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