Background: Between 2007 and 2012, reported cases of syphilis increased 350% in the City and County of Denver. In 2012, 88% of early syphilis cases were identified among men who have sex with men (MSM). To address the increase in syphilis cases, a short-term, multi-faceted public awareness campaign targeting MSM was developed. We sought to assess the reach and effectiveness of the campaign by surveying clients tested for HIV, syphilis, and other STIs through our outreach testing program.
Methods: The “Syphilis is Up” campaign was deployed between January and March 2013. The campaign included a website, social media, mobile applications, print advertising, and client outreach. Between January 23 and May 31, MSM tested through our outreach program were surveyed about the campaign, In addition, website analytics were collected.
Results: Website analytics indicated that the “syphilis page” was the most visited page on the Denver Public Health website, averaging 131 hits per day. Visitors spent an average of 6:60 minutes as compared to an average 0:53 minutes for other pages. The survey of 597 MSM outreach clients indicated that awareness of the syphilis campaign increased from 28% initially to 42% during the campaign. Syphilis Testing in outreach venues during January – June 2013 increased 22% over the same time period in 2012, from 719 tests to 879. During this same time period, the number of syphilis diagnoses increased from 23 to 41 or 78% when compared to 2012.
Conclusions: Public information campaigns, even for limited duration, can be effective when they are multi-faceted, integrated (including print advertising, website and on-line resources, social media, and mobile apps), and focused on a targeted population.