HEREFORDSHIRE has the highest rate of syphilis cases in the West Midlands, a report has found.
A total of 18 people were diagnosed in the county last year, according to data conducted by the West Midlands Enhanced Syphilis Surveillance Scheme (ESSS).
Herefordshire was also top in 2011 with 18 cases and second in 2012 with 11.
A campaign has now been launched by Herefordshire Council's public health department and Wye Valley's NHS Trust's integrated sexual health (iSH) service to try and highlight the problem.
Dr Catherine Chima-Okereke, sexual health consultant at Wye Valley NHS Trust, said that women are just as much at risk as men.
"Anyone who has had unprotected sex, especially oral sex, is at risk of syphilis, as well as other sexually transmitted infections," she said.
"Syphilis is infectious in its early stages, although there are often no symptoms, so you wouldn't even know if you had it.
"Left untreated, it can cause serious health problems and permanent damage to many organs, including the eyes, heart and brain.
"The only way that you can prevent catching or spreading the infection is to avoid sexual contact.
"Condoms used correctly and consistently every time you have sex will reduce your risk of catching STI's, including syphilis and HIV, so it is important that you use a new condom every time you have sex, and that includes oral sex."
Free confidential testing, without an appointment, is available at the sexual health clinic in Gaol Street, Hereford, from 9am to 11am Monday to Friday. Appointments can be booked by calling 01432 378915.