Kansas City, Mo., Health Department Launches Campaign To Reduce Spread of Syphilis Among MSM
The Kansas City, Mo., Health Department has launched a social marketing campaign to reduce the spread of syphilis in the city, which recently experienced "a sharp" increase in the number of cases of the disease, particularly among men who have sex with men, the Kansas City Star reports. In 2005, Kansas City recorded 117 syphilis cases, up from 53 in 2004 and 44 in 2003. Most syphilis cases in the city previously occurred in heterosexuals, but MSM now account for more than half of the new cases, according to the Star. Syphilis is known to facilitate the spread of HIV, and fifty of the men diagnosed with syphilis in 2005 in the city also were HIV-positive, according to the Star. As part of the campaign, which aims to inform MSM about syphilis and encourage people to get tested for the disease, the health department is placing advertisements in alternative newspapers and radio programs aimed at youth, as well as distributing informational brochures at local entertainment venues. The campaign also involves the city's most famous drag queen, John Koop, whose stage name is "Flo," who discusses issues surrounding the rise of syphilis cases in the city during her show. During one of Flo's recent performances at a city night club, volunteers from the health department, medical schools and the Kansas City Free Health Clinic passed out information about syphilis testing to audience members. The volunteers also distributed condoms and glow-in-the-dark bracelets with the health department's telephone number. "This is a new demographic for us," Lesha Dennis, an epidemiology specialist with the health department, said, adding, "Syphilis sort of made its way in. But when it becomes entrenched in this community all it does is spread out" (Bavley, Kansas City Star, 2/19).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.