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"I would know if my partner had something.."Developing an STD Media Campaign for Young Adults

Beth H. Butler, BA, Sexually Transmitted Diseases Program, Pennsylvania Department of Health, PO Box 90, Harrisburg, PA 17108, 717-787-3981, bebutler@state.pa.us

Background: Many young adults partake in risky sexual behaviors. Risks include: sex with many partners, sex under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, and sex without the use of barrier protection (condoms). When asked about the risk of sexually transmitted diseases, many respond: “Sexually transmitted diseases cannot happen to me….”, or, “ I don’t have sex with those ‘types’ of people”, and …”besides, I could tell if they had something”.

Objective: To produce an eye catching media campaign to dispel the myth that partners infected with sexually transmitted diseases are easy to identify or “wear warning labels”

Methods: A multi faceted media campaign was developed in conjunction with a contracted media and marketing firm. The campaign, aimed at college students, incorporated posters, college newspaper print advertising, and a public service announcement. Since 2001, the posters have been redistributed twice a year to college student health centers at approximately 74 colleges and universities throughout Pennsylvania during the fall semester and during the spring semester, before spring break.

Results: Reaching out to the college student health centers prompted them to examine the provision of sexually transmitted disease screening on campus. They were receptive to the media campaign with 30 student health centers becoming chlamydia-screening sites with free urine or cervical specimen analysis provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Screening began in January 2003. During calendar year 2003, the number of students screened by this outreach was 2,951 with 116 chlamydia cases detected.

Conclusions: Young people need to be educated that many sexually transmitted diseases are asymptomatic with consequences that can adversely affect the rest of their lives.

Learning Objectives:

Keywords: Sexual Risk Behavior, College Students

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

Focus on the Adolescent/Young Adult in Health Communication Research

The 132nd Annual Meeting (November 6-10, 2004) of APHA