Purpose of review: Benzathine Penicillin G has been used to treat syphilis for over 50 years; however, the precise regimen of penicillin for treatment of syphilis in HIV-positive individuals remains a hot topic of debate. Although international guidelines recommend the same treatment for syphilis, regardless of HIV status, there are inconsistencies in prescribing practices among clinicians.
Recent findings: Two previous systematic reviews have found limited evidence for enhanced treatment of syphilis in the presence of HIV. However, a growing body of literature indicates that the rate of asymptomatic neurosyphilis may be higher in HIV, and that syphilis infection is associated with poorer long-term neurocognitive outcomes. A number of retrospective studies propose that serological response may be slower, or serological failure may be higher, among HIV-positive individuals, but these studies are limited by high loss to follow-up, high reinfection rates and a focus on serological rather than clinical response. Beyond penicillin, some evidence suggests equivalence of macrolides, cephalosporins and doxycycline, although macrolide resistance is an increasing concern.
Summary: Until a prospective, randomized study is conducted, inconsistency with treatment will continue. We offer a pragmatic approach to recognizing patients who may require further investigation or neuropenetrative antibiotic treatment.