According to the evaluations published in PLoS Medicine, 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.
The cartoons 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."