Since 2002, Toronto has seen a dramatic increase in documented syphilis cases. Ninety-five percent of syphilis infections are among men, with gay and bisexual men comprising 83% of infections among men. An increasing number of men diagnosed with syphilis are also HIV-positive – up to one-half in 2008.
While syphilis is treatable, it can result in severe health issues if undetected, especially for those who are living with HIV/AIDS. Many people do not recognize the symptoms of syphilis, or do not experience any symptoms until it is too late, which makes regular testing all the more important.
ACT has been raising awareness about syphilis since the outbreak began in Toronto, by talking to men about syphilis through outreach and promotion of testing and treatment. After the last large-scale syphilis awareness campaign by ACT in 2003, Toronto Public Health reported a decline in infections during the following two years, but new cases are once again on the rise.
In response to a request from ACT, Toronto Public Health and the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care provided funding to roll out a new multifaceted awareness campaign in print, online and in gay community venues. Thanks to the pro bono work of Due North Communications, this campaign launched in January 2010.