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A campaign based on ‘shock value’ trying to raise awareness of syphilis across Kingston – Kingston Achi-News

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A campaign based on ‘shock value’ trying to raise awareness of syphilis across Kingston – Kingston

 Achi-News

Achi news desk-

A campaign is underway across Kingston, Ont., and the surrounding region to raise awareness about sexually transmitted infection (STI).

Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington public health unit moved forward with the campaign which tries to talk about how and where syphilis can be spread. In a presentation to the health board on Wednesday, nurse Julie Sousa detailed how the spread of the infection has led to progress over the years.

The region now has twice the rate of infections compared to the rest of the state, he said.

“We have noted a steady increase in syphilis cases. We started to notice the (increase) in 2021, but it was really in 2022 when we started to see a huge increase in the numbers,” Sousa said in an interview with Global News.

“With these rates here at KFL&A, we know they reflect provincial and federal trends. It’s not like KFL&A is a hot spot, per se, but we have a high test rate. We report a high number of cases, and we report appropriately.”

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The campaign is currently in its first phase, with Sousa saying that some of the posters that have been created can be seen on some of the city’s buses. These photos depict someone’s mouth which Sousa said is to “alert people to the possibility that oral sex is a potential risk to people.”

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Another image she said can be seen is an illustrated fetus with writing highlighting the importance of getting tested during pregnancy.

Other posters, however, are a bit more explicit with one depicting a woman’s genital areas covered in a flower. Another features a picture of bare buttocks draped over a door, with the words, “Don’t let syphilis sneak through your back door.”

The clarity of these photos falls under the campaign’s goal of inducing shock value, Sousa added.

“I think with the general public, we would really like to create a culture where it is removed from the stigma. Where (we) promote screening and we promote progression of symptoms,” he said.

These particular posters are expected to be targeted at an audience that is between 30 and 34 years old on average, said the nurse. They would go up on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, as well as a dating app called Grindr.

Some Kingstonians, however, felt that the posters were not fulfilling their role in terms of getting more people tested or raising awareness in general.

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“I think it’s a good visual but it doesn’t give enough information about the real numbers, the rates. I feel like people would be more serious about it if they saw the numbers,” Kyra Bough said.

Rachel Mack also shared the same sentiment, noting that a poster won’t do as much compared to something like educating people about getting tested for the disease.

“I feel that testing is something that has to start at a young age and kind of more with the education system, bringing them up on that,” he said.

“Most people are aware of the risk and probably won’t be reminded by a poster.”

But for Lisa Silva, the posters are a great way to get the conversation going around STIs. He noted that when talking about something like syphilis, it is expected that certain parts of the body will be exposed.

“I don’t think we should retreat,” he said.

Sousa noted that mechanisms are in place to ensure that the posters do not reach an unintended audience including minors.


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Syphilis outbreaks in Kingston, Ont., and beyond


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