San Francisco is using an unusual mascot to increase the sexual health of residents and raise awareness about sexually transmitted diseases.
According to The Bay Area Reporter, health officials will begin using the "Healthy Penis" mascot at various events in the city starting next month. The large, penis-shaped mascot will help spread the word about an increase in STDs among homosexuals in the city and encourage individuals in this group to undergo regular STD testing.
"It is a light-hearted, fun way to talk about an important health issue," Susan Philip, director of STD prevention and control services for the health department, recently told the San Francisco Gate. "It sticks with people."
In addition to the mascot appearing at parades and other community events, the mascot will hand out miniature penis-shaped stress relief toys that include recommendations on testing frequency for homosexuals and bisexuals. While the toys recommend testing every six months, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that men who have sex with men get tested at least once a year for HIV, gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia. However, the agency states that men who have multiple or anonymous partners should be tested for STDs every three to six months.
This isn't the first time the penis mascot has been used in San Francisco. The campaign debuted in 2002 to combat an increase in syphilis cases in the city. Officials told The Bay Area Reporter that the mascot was effective initially in raising awareness and lowering STD rates. However, reports show that cases of gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia have been increasing in recent years.
There are several different Healthy Penis mascots to appeal to men of all races. For instance, there's Pedro, who's Latino, and Clark, who's African American.
"I would hesitate to say that a certain campaign is the answer or not the answer," Philip told the news provider. "We know it is a very complex issue, people are very complex and sexual behavior is very complex."