Attack of the Cursed Syphilis! New awareness campaign strikes back

    For immediate release: Wednesday, January 6, 2010

    TORONTO – The AIDS Committee of Toronto (ACT) is launching a new, multifaceted syphilis awareness campaign called "Attack of the Cursed Syphilis," featuring illustrations and graphics reminiscent of advertisements for campy 1950s horror films. The posters, brochures, condom packs and advertisements – in print and online – encourage gay and bisexual men to learn more about syphilis, get tested for it, and get treated.

    Since 2002, Toronto has seen a dramatic increase in documented syphilis cases. “In 2008, 324 cases were identified in Toronto,” says John Maxwell, Director of Policy and Communications at ACT. “That’s more than 10 times the number of cases reported in 2001.”

    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 have 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 new campaign is set to roll out in January 2010.

    More information about syphilis can be found on the ACT website at
    - 30 -

    For more information, please contact:

    Andrew Brett
    Communications Coordinator
    416-340-8484 ext. 225 or