IN response to news of the increase of syphilis notifications, Living Positive Victoria has launched the “Everything old is new again” campaign aimed as raising syphilis awareness among HIV positive gay men aged 40-60.

LPV launched the campaign after working closely with the Victorian Department of Health, Victorian AIDS Council (VAC), Melbourne Sexual Health Clinic and community members.

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“Syphilis rates have been increasing quite rapidly over the past two years. This may be because of delays in diagnosis or treatment which increase the chances of onward transmission,” Melbourne Sexual Health Clinic director Professor Christopher Fairley said.

“It is important that individuals at risk of syphilis have frequent sexual health check-ups and present as early as possible if any symptoms develop.”

The campaign posters and postcards use images from US syphilis campaigns of the 1930s and 1940s, repurposed with updated text to engage and prompt individuals and doctors that syphilis needs to be regularly tested for, so that it can be treated.

The slogan is a tongue-in-cheek reminder that syphilis might be seen by some as an “old” disease, but after a period of relatively low notifications the rising rates of infection are a somewhat “new” challenge.

“‘Everything old is new again’ uses striking imagery from a time and place when syphilis rates was a pressing public health concern and a strong message needed to be communicated,” LPV executive officer Brent Allan said.

“We’re also at a time in notifications where we need to get a strong awareness message out there so that hopefully with more people getting tested and treated we will see a decrease in notifications over time.”

Syphilis can often go undetected, with few or no symptoms, so regular testing is vital to diagnose syphilis infection.

Sexual transmission of syphilis can occur in different ways, with 50 per cent of infections attributable to non-anal related transmission routes.

Three monthly routine testing for syphilis is recommended if you are sexually active.

“Being diagnosed with syphilis came as a shock, but I was glad to have gotten onto it quickly before I passed it on to anyone else,” said Paul Kidd, a former LPV president who was diagnosed with the disease a decade ago.

“Few people want to talk about having had syphilis, but we need to be honest about this infection which is much easier than most STIs to contract.

“I hope other people with HIV will hear the key message of this campaign: if you’re sexually active, keep an eye out for the symptoms and, even if you have no symptoms, make sure your doctor tests you for syphilis every three months.”

The “Everything old is new again” campaign will appear in sex-on-premise venues, HIV and sexual health clinics, and on online, print and radio media between October 2014 to June 2015.

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