One of the only things I remember from High School (stay in class, kids!) was a teacher* who said, in passing, that Goya’s best works were painted while he was in the final stages of syphilis, because it had infected his brain and made him madly creative. Which is my glass half full way to prepare you for the news that new syphilis cases have risen 55.8 percent over the previous year.

Even better, no one seems to know why. It’s not like no one’s having “safe” sex anymore — according to Dr. Susan Philip, acting director of the sexually transmitted disease prevention and control services unit of San Francisco’s Health Department, says “We don’t have a single explanation to tie it to, but we do know reported risk behaviors haven’t changed dramatically.”

So it looks like syphilis isn’t just for characters from Buffy anymore. So be smart! Here’s the CDC’s fact sheet on the disease, and Wikipedia has a bunch of so incredibly NSFW pictures that you can gaze upon and pretend’s still around still relevant.

So say you do have syphilis? (wow now I feel like a pamphlet in the guidance counselor’s office) You’re in better shape than Goya — a shot of penicillin should do ya. So listen to those penes you saw on the side of the bus and get treatment before you end up looking like one of those Wikipedia pics.

*He was actually the band director, which I guess counts as a teacher? But, so we’re clear, I WAS NOT IN BAND. You can be excused for thinking that, though, since I even made a Buffy joke in this story. What is wrong with me? Anyway, I have since learned that this was not necessarily true, the Goya syphilis thing. So there you go.

the author

Eve Batey is the editor and publisher of the San Francisco Appeal. She used to be the San Francisco Chronicle's Deputy Managing Editor for Online, and started at the Chronicle as their blogging and interactive editor. Before that, she was a co-founding writer and the lead editor of SFist. She's been in the city since 1997, presently living in the Outer Sunset with her husband, cat, and dog. You can reach Eve at

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