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1 January 2007
Cartoons Boost Syphilis Testing
by George Atkinson

A social marketing campaign called "Healthy Penis," which used cartoon strips to encourage gay and bisexual men in San Francisco to get tested for syphilis, resulted in an increase in syphilis tests, say health researchers writing in PLoS Medicine.

The cartoons - available online at http://www.healthypenis.org - were also 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 later conducted two surveys - one at six months and one at 30 months after the campaign had begun - in which they asked gay and bisexual men whether they were aware of the cartoons and if their level of awareness about syphilis had changed.

The researchers 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. "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," write the researchers, adding that; "this effect might have contributed to decreased syphilis incidence in 2005."

Based on material from the Public Library of Science

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