Dogs are talking about syphilis,
hoping gay men will listen
By Elizabeth Daley
July 19, 2007
"So many crotches, so little time,'' said the dog on a poster
in front of San Francisco's city hall today.
Dogs around the city are speaking up - figuratively, anyway -
on tote bags and posters as part of a new campaign promoting syphilis
testing among gay men.
Syphilis cases in San Francisco rose from eight in 1998 to 421
in 2006, with 95 percent of those cases recorded among gay and
bisexual men, according to the San Francisco Department of Public
Dogs were selected as health campaign spokesmen because "in
most gay communities around the world, dogs and puppies are humorously
referred to as date magnets," according to the San Francisco
Department of Public Health.
"This campaign hopes to take advantage of the way gay men
feel about their pets while getting a very important message across.''
"We want gay men to be tested for syphilis every three to
six months,'' said Eileen Shields, a spokeswoman for the campaign.
While cases of syphilis are not on the rise this year, the disease
still concerns doctors like Jeffrey Klausner, health officer and
director of STD prevention and control services in San Francisco.
Klausner said many people might not even know they have syphilis,
which can have flu like symptoms. He said generally, the disease
first appears as an ulcer, but if it is not treated, it can lead
to brain, heart, and bone or skin damage.
Gay men are most at risk for the disease due to their sexual
activity patterns, Klausner said, but women and heterosexual men
are also at risk for the disease.
Steve Gibson, director of Magnet,
a center for gay men in the Castro district, said he is not at
all bothered that the campaign targets gay men.
Gibson said he appreciated the lighthearted approach the SFDP
campaign employed, using dogs to encourage testing. He added that
the SFDPH is leading the country in a more positive direction
by promoting non fear-based public health campaigns.
Those wishing to get tested for STDs for free can go to Magnet
at 4122 18th St., the San Francisco City Clinic at 356 7th St.,
or fill out a form online at http://www.stdtest.org and take it
to an area health center.
Klausner said it is important for those with HIV to continue
to get tested, because having other STDs like syphilis could further
compromise their health.
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