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Ask Dr. K

A partner of mine told me he tested positive for syphilis using the 20-minute test. I went to see the doctor immediately. When I was tested, it came back negative, but the doctor gave me a prophylactic penicillin shot anyway. Now that same partner tells me he tested positive for gonorrhea as well. Those test results took longer to get, I guess. Do I need to get tested for gonorrhea as well, or will the penicillin shot I was given for syphilis kill the gonorrhea if I happen to have been infected?

Your doctor gave you the penicillin shot prophylacticly as syphilis sores (symptoms of the first stage of syphilis) can show up anywhere from two to twelve weeks after a person has been infected. You know what they say: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

You also need to be treated for gonorrhea separately. Penicillin does not treat gonorrhea and similar to syphilis, those exposed to gonorrhea should be treated regardless of test results.

It's too bad that once your doctor knew you had unprotected sex with someone who had an STD, he didn't suggest the entire course of STD testing. At San Francisco City Clinic, the provider would have talked to you about your sexual experiences and together you could have decided which tests would have been appropriate (syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, HIV, etc.). At Magnet, a gay men's community center in the Castro, they offer men a complete sexual health tune-up.

You may also want to consider letting your other sex partners know they may have been exposed to an STD so you can play safely in the future. There's a new website available where you can send an e-card to your partners either anonymously or from your screen name at

To your health,
Dr. K

Last modified on Thursday, November 19, 2009.
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