Background: African-Americans bear a heavy burden of STDs in the United States, yet few sexual-health campaigns have attempted to reach African American males. Formative research with this population suggests the need to reach males at an early age with bold and empowering messaging. We sought to develop, implement, and evaluate a sexual health campaign for Black males, ages 14-17 years in Washington, D.C.
Methods: Public-health agencies teamed up with local art/design students and stakeholders in Washington, D.C. to design the SEX PACT Campaign (www.sexpact.org). This campaign utilizes youth civic engagement, unconventional (“guerrilla”) marketing (e.g., sticker bombing), peer-to-peer outreach/education and new media to promote positive attitudes and behaviors related to condom use. The campaign ran for five weeks in an urban-housing community in D.C. Pre- and post-campaign surveys evaluated campaign awareness and ease of access to free condoms, acquisition and use of condoms among young males recruited from a community-based organization.
Results: The pre-campaign survey was completed by 36 males, ages 14-17 years. The post-campaign survey was completed by 51 males in the same age group. In this post-campaign group, awareness of SEX PACT was 76%. From pre- to post-campaign, increases were seen in the number of respondents reporting easy access to free condoms (55% vs. 100%), recent condom acquisition from community locations (12% vs. 61%), and condom use at last sex (68% vs. 71%).
Conclusions: Limited data indicate some initial successes of SEX PACT related to youth awareness and access and use of condoms in an urban-housing community. With correct training and implementation, such guerrilla-marketing efforts can offer a low-cost way to disseminate health messages while providing opportunities for youth to take ownership and leadership in protecting their health. The SEX PACT concept could be replicated and expanded to market other sexual-health behaviors.