Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Prior to 2001, syphilis occurred primarily among heterosexual adults of low socioeconomic status in Chicago. Epidemic increases of syphilis occurred among men who have sex with men (MSM) beginning in 2001 and syphilis cases continued to decline among heterosexual populations in the city during this period. In response to syphilis increases, a syphilis marketing campaign to increase syphilis testing ran from October 2003 to December 2004 targeting MSM to raise awareness of syphilis and the need for routine syphilis screening.
We evaluated community-wide syphilis testing patterns following the launch of the syphilis awareness media campaign to identify changes in syphilis testing behaviors from 2004 to 2006.
We reviewed the prevalence rate and the number of tests performed at a convenience sample of 27 large community hospitals and clinics in Chicago from 2004 to 2006, and compared the testing dates with the date of the syphilis awareness media campaign.
Of the 27 hospitals and laboratories evaluated, the number of tests performed annually increased from 2004 to 2006. In 2004, 93,173 were tested with 1,193confirmed reactive syphilis tests. In 2005, 132,862 syphilis tests were performed with 1,682 confirmed reactive syphilis tests representing an increase of 43% in the number of tests performed in 2005 compared to 2004. In 2006, 172,606 syphilis tests were performed, with a yield of 2,018 confirmed reactive syphilis tests representing an increase of 30% over 2005. Overall, the number of syphilis tests performed increased by 83% from 2004 to 2006.
We observed increases in syphilis testing in the years during and following the implementation of a syphilis awareness media campaign.
Syphilis testing behaviors can be influenced by media, among other factors.