National response to syphilis

The number of cases of infectious syphilis in Australia has been rising. We are responding on a national level, working with affected state and territory governments, to control outbreaks and reduce the incidence of syphilis.

Syphilis in Australia

Syphilis has significantly increased in Australia in the past decade. In 2022, case notifications of infectious syphilis had more than doubled from recorded rates in 2015.

Three population groups are especially at risk:

  • women of reproductive age
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and those living in outbreak declared areas of regional and remote Australia
  • gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men.

Untreated syphilis can have serious health consequences for both men and women. For pregnant people, syphilis can be passed onto the baby if left untreated, and can cause severe pregnancy and birth complications, including death.

We are responding to the syphilis outbreak at a national level. This is part of our work to tackle communicable diseases, including other sexually transmissible infections (STIs) and bloodborne viruses (BBV).

Addressing syphilis in First Nations communities

The Australian Government is collaborating with the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) to reduce syphilis in Indigenous communities. Together they are committed to supporting an enhanced response to addressing syphilis outbreaks in prescribed regions across Australia through the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS).

Funding includes support for: 

  • workforce supplementation and implementation costs for the roll-out of the ‘Test and Treat’ model, including point-of-care testing (PoCT) for ACCHS in the outbreak regions
  • development and roll out of a ‘train the trainer’ model to upskill the existing and the supplemented workforce in both the ‘Test and Treat’ model
  • developing culturally appropriate health communication and education materials in consultation with community, aimed at both clinicians and the target population.

For more information on the Enhanced Syphilis Response see Enhanced Syphilis Response (ESR) – NACCHO.

National strategies

The Fourth National STI Strategy 2018–2022 provides the guiding principles, goals, targets, priority areas and priority populations for our national approach to addressing STIs.

Its main priorities are to:

  • carry out education and prevention activities
  • increase testing, early treatment and management
  • ensure people have access to prevention programs and coordinated care
  • increase workforce capability
  • improve data collection and surveillance
  • address stigma and discrimination.

Updating the strategy

We are developing the Fifth National STI Strategy 2023–2030. The strategy will build on the achievements and lessons learned from the 2018–2022 strategy. It will strongly inform the direction for Australia’s continued and world leading response to STI.

We expect to open public consultation for the draft strategy in early 2024, where we will seek your feedback.

Together with the new National STI Strategy, the national strategic approach for responding to rising rates of syphilis in Australia 2021 guides our national response. 

Its 3 national targets are to:

  • reduce the incidence of syphilis, with a focus on women of reproductive age
  • eliminate congenital syphilis
  • control outbreaks among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in
    • Queensland
    • the Northern Territory
    • Western Australia
    • South Australia.

The National syphilis surveillance and monitoring plan provides indicators to monitor our progress towards achieving the 3 targets.

We report on progress through quarterly syphilis surveillance reports.


We recommend referring to the Australian STI Management Guidelines for use in Primary Care for guidance on testing, treatment and management of STI, including syphilis. The guidelines have recently been updated, to see what’s changed visit What's New – STI Guidelines Australia.

For healthcare professionals and services, we also recommend consulting your state or territory’s local guidelines and resources. They will give advice for STI management that is specific to your region.

Workforce and education activities

We give funding to:

  • increase the health workforce and testing and treatment in Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services in affected regions
  • increase community awareness of syphilis, other STIs and BBV through education activities.

Education activities include the:

We also fund the Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM). ASHM delivers education activities for healthcare professionals working in:

  • HIV
  • viral hepatitis
  • sexual and reproductive health.

To access targeted syphilis training and education including the Decision Making in Syphilis Interactive Tool, see ASHM’s Syphilis Learning Hub.

Who we work with

To reduce the incidence of syphilis in Australia, we are working with:

The Communicable Diseases Network Australia (CDNA) lead governance of the national syphilis response. To drive a nationally coordinated response, they consult and work in collaboration with the:

Learn more

Australian Capital Territory 

New South Wales 

Northern Territory


South Australia



Western Australia


National response to syphilis contact

Contact us for enquiries related to the national response to syphilis.
Date last updated:

Help us improve

If you would like a response please use the enquiries form instead.