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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
NOVA SCOTIA: Capital Health Tackles Outbreak of Syphilis with 'Plain Language'
By John McPhee
June 27, 2013
The Chronicle Herald (06.21.2013)

In response to a syphilis outbreak in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the public health branch of Capital Health will launch a public awareness campaign next week, urging residents to get tested. Senior Communications Adviser Carmen MacKenzie stated that Capital Health consulted with target populations, including the Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project, to develop messaging for the $40,000 campaign. Using a wide variety of street terms for oral sex, the campaign comprises a Web site (; posters that will hang in the men’s restrooms of five Halifax pubs and restaurants; and advertisements for alternative newspapers, Web sites, and smartphone applications commonly used to arrange sexual encounters. The Web site will provide a partially completed online lab requisition form members of the public can use to obtain syphilis testing at any Capital Health blood-testing clinic. Although condom use remains an important message for syphilis prevention, the Capital Health campaign focuses on syphilis testing, especially for people with symptoms such as a “red body rash or a single painless genital ulcer.” Capital Health’s public health branch reported that 153 Halifax men and 2 Halifax women between the ages of 18 and 72 have tested positive for syphilis since 2008. Left untreated, syphilis can result in coordination problems, paralysis, progressive blindness, organ damage (brain, blood, or liver), and death. Dr. Richard Gould, the district’s medical officer of health, stated that treatment with a specific form of penicillin usually is successful in curing syphilis infections within approximately one month. Since it is possible to be re-infected, high-risk individuals should have syphilis testing every three to six months.