December 27, 2006
San Francisco Department of Public Health researchers say a 2002-2005 campaign to encourage men to test for syphilis was successful. The Healthy Penis campaign featured comic-strip penis-shaped characters as mascots. The department sponsored the ads in order to check rising syphilis rates among gay and bisexual men. More men who had seen the ads tested for syphilis, with 40-60 percent reporting they had sought testing in the previous six months, said researchers. New syphilis infections have since declined, say officials. "We took a risk, and that risk paid off," said Jacqueline McCright, an STD services manager with the department. Similar ads have been adopted by Santa Clara County, Palm Springs, Seattle, Philadelphia and Los Angeles. The full report, "Healthy Penis: San Francisco's Social Marketing Campaign to Increase Syphilis Testing Among Gay and Bisexual Men," was published in the Public Library of Science Medicine (2006;3(12):e474.doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030474).