Sex infection battle takes to dating sites 2

Published: June 14, 2011

Alberta’s chief medical officer Dr. Andre Corriveau hopes spreading the message virally through social networks will bring awareness about STIs to a "blase" and "jaded" younger generation.
 
"Obviously, the traditional methods of just posters and communications is not reaching the younger audience that we’re targeting, who are more into social media," he said.
 
He wants to stop Alberta from leading the way — at least, when it comes to high sexually transmitted infection (STI) rates.
 
Part of the province’s $14-million campaign included research with marketing firms to see the best way to reach young people.
 
Focus groups found the way men and women respond to ads are different.
 
"Just going with one would have meant not as much effectiveness as we wanted to have," he said.
 
People are "blase" and "jaded" towards messaging that followed the surfacing of AIDS in the 1980s, Corriveau explained.
 
"We need to refresh our messaging," he said. "I think the perception that many of these things can be treated may have caused some relaxation. Even some people now think HIV is curable. You can manage it as a chronic illness with cocktails of medications and anti-virals, but it’s not still curable."
 
The syphilis ad campaigns harness novelty, such as the radio spots mocking a dating website in hopes that people will question their behaviours. Corriveau said there is no correlation between dating sites and STIs, but it was a relatable, attention-grabbing vehicle.
 
"The market research told us the dating sites are very commonly used by young people," Corriveau explained. "We had statistics go to us that close to 40% of young adults use dating sites."
 
The highest risk group for STI overall are 15 to 25 year olds, while syphilis peaks more in the late 20s.
 
Young aboriginal women and men who have sex with men are the fastest growing group.
 
The social media campaign is one part of the overall strategy.
 
"These are meant to increase awareness and cause a little bit of dissonance maybe," he said.
 
Corriveau said one of the problems with many STIs is the lack of symptoms, so nurses are working to make sure contacts have been notified.
 
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