Dozens of billboards urging Americans to get tested for gonorrhea have appeared on highways in 19 US cities.
The signs, which show a Titanic-like ship crashing into an iceberg, come as cases hit their highest level since the 1990s, with 700,000 people infected annually.
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which is behind the billboards, said their goal was to prompt people to “ask questions” about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). They said the iceberg represented the unintended consequences of an infection.
It comes after a strain of supergonorrhea, resistant to almost all antibiotics, was seen in boston. Patients who contract the sexually transmitted disease may face infertility, inflammation of the pelvis, and increased risk of contracting HIV.
Marcelino Alcorta, the foundation’s western regional director, said the goal of the billboards was to encourage someone to Google to get tested.
“There is a sense of desensitization when it comes to STDs,” they told the seattle times.
‘Billboards go a long way in getting someone to Google something or book something with a provider.
“There’s also value in asking a question, and if you’re among friends, hopefully there’s someone in your friend group who could start a conversation.”
The signs read: ‘Drug-Resistant Gonorrhea Alert!’
They also have a link, freeSTDcheck.org, where Americans can visit to find out how to get a free test for gonorrhea.
Of the cities where the billboards have appeared, Los Angeles, California, has received the most billboards with 11 in total.
It was followed by Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which each have seven billboards.
Seven of the 19 cities with billboards, or one-third, were in Florida. These were Broward, Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, Pensacola, and St. Petersburg.
There were also two cities in Texas with billboards, Dallas and Houston, and another in California, Oakland.
The boards began to be installed around June and are expected to be on display for about 12 weeks. They have recently been installed in some cities, such as Seattle.
All sexually active people should be tested for sexually transmitted infections at least once a year, says the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC).
All sexually active women under the age of 25 should be tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia every year, they added.
All sexually active gay or bisexual men should be tested for syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea at least once a year. Those who have multiple sexual partners should be tested every three to six months.
Gonorrhea infections reached record levels in the 1970s and 1980s with around 400 cases per 100,000 people at their peak.
But with the advent of technologies like condoms, increased STD awareness and infection control programs, annual infections have dropped 74 percent since 1996.
However, in recent years, infections have started to rise again with factors such as having more sexual partners, using condoms less frequently, a lack of testing, and the emergence of antibiotic resistance all fueling the rise.
People can only become infected with gonorrhea through vaginal, anal, or oral sex when the bacteria are passed in body fluids from one person to another.
Early warning signs of infection include experiencing painful urination, abnormal discharge from the penis or anus, and redness or swelling in the urethra or vagina.
Infections are treated with a number of antibiotics. But in recent years, with the rise of resistance, doctors are beginning to fear that an alternative is needed.
In some cases, infections can cause infertility in men by triggering scar tissue in the urethra, which can reduce the number of sperm that leave the body during ejaculation.
In women, the bacteria can move through the cervix to the upper reproductive organs, causing inflammation and scarring that can affect fertility.
The bacteria can also increase someone’s risk of becoming infected with HIV by making it easier for the virus to enter the bloodstream.
This year in Boston, two people were diagnosed with a “troubling” strain of super gonorrhea.
There was no connection between the pair, suggesting that the disease is circulating more widely in the community.
Dr. Margaret Cooke, head of the state health department, called the discovery a “serious public health concern.” The strain has previously been seen in both the UK and Austria.