Original Article | Volume 19: 13 | 07 Feb 2024

Prevalence, risk factors and treatment outcomes of syphilis among people living with human immunodeficiency virus at primary care clinics in Malaysia: A retrospective study


Introduction: Syphilis and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) coinfection is a common clinical problem with a significant rising trend worldwide. In Malaysia, the burden of care is shared between hospitals and primary care clinics. This study aimed to determine the prevalence of syphilis among people living with HIV (PLHIV) at primary care clinics in Malaysia and assess its association with sociodemographic characteristics, risk factors and treatment outcomes.
Methods: This retrospective study included 750 PLHIV aged ≥18 years who attended primary care clinics in three different locations in Malaysia from 1 January 2017 to 31 December 2019. Data were obtained from the patients’ clinical notes using a structured questionnaire evaluating the sociodemographic characteristics, history of sexual and lifestyle behaviours, diagnosis and management.
Results: The patients’ age ranged from 18 to 78 years (mean=34.7, standard deviation=10.2). The prevalence of syphilis among the PLHIV at the three primary care clinics was 33.8% (n=254). Syphilis was significantly associated with gender (P=0.038) as well as sexual activity (P<0.001), substance use (P=0.038), history of chemsex (P=0.001) and history of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) (P<0.001) within the past 12 months. The majority of the PLHIV with syphilis received treatment at the primary care clinics (n=248, 97.3%), and up to 96.1% (n=245) had completed such treatment.
Conclusion: Syphilis is prevalent among PLHIV at primary care clinics, and most patients receive standard treatment. Therefore, primary care doctors must enhance their knowledge to effectively manage STIs, especially syphilis.