SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco Department of Health is continuing with a graphic-but-effective public health campaign it’s used in recent years involving a giant cartoon penis character that hands out discounts to those who undergo HIV tests, the Huffington Post reported this week.
The Department’s “Healthy Penis” campaign involves a trio of cartoon penises and their enemy Phil the Syphilis Sore. The characters work with local merchants in the city’s heavily gay Castro District to offer discounts at Starbucks, Sunglass Hut and more, to anyone willing to take an HIV test. Coupons look like dollar bills with Byron H. Penis in the place of Washington on the note. A “healthy penis” squeeze toy reminds residents to get tested every six months.
“When people know their status, they’re a lot less likely to spread their infection around,” said Thomas Knoble in the Huffington Post article. He’s one of the effort’s organizers and says it was initially created about a decade ago and seen as a major factor in a marked decrease in syphilis cases.
He told the Post there’s been surprisingly little backlash against the campaign, even among those organizers thought might object. The campaign is not LGBT-specific but targets the city’s gay community the article said. It runs through October.