Prompting men to have syphilis tests

The 'Healthy Penis' campaign was associated with an increase in syphilis tests

An innovative social marketing campaign called "Healthy Penis," which used humorous cartoon strips to encourage gay and bisexual men in San Francisco to get checked for syphilis, was associated with an increase in syphilis tests, according to evaluations published in PLoS Medicine.

The cartoons (see http://www.healthypenis.org/) were placed in a gay newspaper, and poster-sized reproductions were posted on the streets, on bus shelters, on gay websites, and in gay bars. The researchers, led by Katherine Ahrens (San Francisco Dept of Public Health), conducted two surveys--one at six months and one at 2.5 years after the campaign had begun--in which they asked gay and bisexual men whether they were aware of the cartoons and about their sexual health.

Ahrens and colleagues found that gay and bisexual men who were aware of the cartoons were more likely than those unaware to have tested recently for syphilis and to have greater knowledge about syphilis. This effect was sustained for almost three years.

"Our evaluations strongly suggest that the Healthy Penis social marketing campaign was effective in augmenting syphilis testing and increasing syphilis awareness and knowledge in the San Francisco gay and bisexual community," say the authors. "This effect might have contributed to decreased syphilis incidence in 2005."

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Citation: Ahrens K, Kent CK, Montoya JA, Rotblatt H, McCright J, et al. (2006) Healthy Penis: San Francisco's social marketing campaign to increase syphilis testing among gay and bisexual men. PLoS Med 3(12): e474.

PLEASE ADD THE LINK TO THE PUBLISHED ARTICLE IN ONLINE VERSIONS OF YOUR REPORT:
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Related image for press use: http://www.plos.org/press/plme-03-12-ahrens.jpg

- Caption: Heal thy Penis Campaign: Get Tested for Syphilis Poster

CONTACTS:

Katherine Ahrens
San Francisco Department of Public Health,
STD Prevention and Control
1360 Mission St.
SUITE 410
San Francisco, CA 94103
+1 415 355 2025
katherine.ahrens@sfdph.org

EMBARGO: MONDAY, 25 December, 5 P.M. PST

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PLoS Medicine is an open access, freely available international medical journal. It publishes original research that enhances our understanding of human health and disease, together with commentary and analysis of important global health issues. For more information, visit http://www.plosmedicine.org

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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Men are not prisoners of fate, but only prisoners of their own minds.
-- Franklin D. Roosevelt