I wish I could say I was surprised. But nothing that takes place in the city by the bay shocks me anymore.
Last week the Public Health Department for the City of San Francisco launched an outreach campaign designed to encourage gay men to get tested for syphilis. So, according the San Francisco Examiner:
Move over Lou Seal, there’s another San Francisco mascot that will appear at arades, street fairs and other public events around the city over the coming year. It’s the 6-foot-tall Healthy Penis.
Actually, there are three of them, and they’ll make their reappearance at noon today at the corner of Castro and Market. The characters will appear with a fourth, much-less-attractive buddy, Phil the Syphilis Sore.
Apparently, this is not a new idea. 2002 was the first time this campaign was employed, and with some success.
Controversial when they debuted in 2002, the characters became popular and appeared around the city until 2006 to encourage gay and bisexual men to get tested for syphilis.
Syphilis cases dropped over those years, and the penis costumes were borrowed by
other cities to promote testing for sexually transmitted diseases. But now the department of Public Health is bringing them back because syphilis cases are again on the rise, up 50 percent from 2007 to 2008.
And yes, the city is paying staff to parade around the city in these obscene costumes.
Inside the costumes are public health staffers. “There is no lack of people who
want to volunteer to wear a penis costume in public,” said department spokeswoman Eileen Shields.
Your tax dollars at work!