Local and Community News
San Francisco: Department of Public Health Deems "Healthy Penis" Ads a Success
February 10, 2003
Healthy Penis 2002, a controversial education campaign about getting tested for syphilis, has been declared a success by the San Francisco Department of Public Health. The campaign features cartoon characterizations of penises and syphilis sores. It has been running in gay media outlets and on MUNI bus shelters since June 2002. Costumed penis and sore characters have also appeared at various street fairs, and the penis character has been interviewed by Comedy Central's "The Daily Show."Adapted from:
The campaign drew initial criticism for its depictions being too cartoonish or inappropriate for public display. However, a survey of gay and bisexual men conducted by DPH between Nov. 15 and Dec. 6, 2002, indicates the campaign has resonated with its target audience. Eighty-nine percent of the 125 men surveyed had seen the campaign. Those who had seen the campaign were more likely to have recently been tested for syphilis than those who had not, 53 percent to 21 percent respectively. Of those who had seen the campaign, 49 percent said it made them want to get tested for syphilis; 46 percent said they would wear a condom; and 30 percent said it made them want to get tested for HIV.
"Our preliminary data suggest that the Healthy Penis campaign has been successful in increasing awareness and encouraging gay and bisexual men to get tested for syphilis," said Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, the city's director of STD prevention.
In 2002, the city counted 495 cases of early syphilis, 93 percent of them occurring among gay and bisexual men. There were 198 early syphilis cases reported in 2001. Klausner said syphilis rates are doubling every six months. Of last year's cases, 66 percent were among HIV-positive men.
The city's goal is to see 90 percent of HIV-positive, sexually active gay men tested for syphilis every six months. The Healthy Penis campaign will continue as long as it continues to be effective. For more information, visit www.healthypenis2003.org.
Bay Area Reporter (San Francisco)
01.23.03; Matthew S. Bajko
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.