December 29, 2006
Volume 34
Issue 52
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Monday, Jan 20, 2020



Cartoon campaign credited with encouraging Gay men to get syphilis tests
Cartoon campaign credited with encouraging Gay men to get syphilis tests
Cartoon campaign credited with encouraging Gay men to get syphilis tests SAN FRANCISCO, C.A. -- Between 1999 and 2002 the number cases of syphilis skyrocketed in San Francisco, from 44 in 1992 to 494 in 2002 with an unusually high percentage in the Gay community.

The numbers sparked fear among local health authorities that the surge in syphilis cases would be a precursor to a huge jump in the number of cases of HIV/AIDS.

In June 2002, the San Francisco Department of Public Health launched a major marketing campaign, called Healthy Penis, designed to encourage Gay ad Bisexual men to get tested for syphilis.

The Department chose the annual San Francisco Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Parade to unveil the campaign ad it continued through December 2005.

The campaign, a series of humorous and provocative cartoons were placed in LGBT publications and posters were set up along streets in the Castro and in bus shelters.

A just completed series of evaluations of the program has found that Gay and Bisexual men in general were aware of the cartoons and that those men were more likely to have gotten tested for syphilis.

The first evaluation was conducted at the six month point. The second midway through the second year.

The evaluations, conducted by Katherine Ahrens of the San Francisco Dept of Public Health, are reported in the Public Library of Science.

"In 2005 incidence of early syphilis was lower than in the previous three years, with decreases in cases in Gay/Bisexual men accounting for the drop," Ahrens' report says.

"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," said Ahrens.

The Healthy Penis campaign has also been used in Los Angeles, Palm Springs, and Santa Clara County, California; Philadelphia and Seattle.

Ahrens report concluded that because the cost of creating the campaign has already been paid the cost would be considerably lower for other communities to use the ads.


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