Health :

At first glance the website PlentyOfSyph looks like many other dating sites, but as the name suggests, there is something very different about it.

Financed by the Canadian government and created by Alberta Health Services, this site is actually a parody of dating sites like

The site is part of the government’s 2 million dollar campaign to combat the rising rates of syphilis in Alberta, Canada. Although the intention is good, the only thing that I think this campaign does well is equate internet dating with the acquisition of Syphilis.

How the site will increase testing for syphilis, raise awareness, and promote the overall sexual health of Albertans is beyond me. What the creators apparently do not realize is that the Internet and its many dating sites, are no more than communication tools that facilitate in-person dating.

What the site clearly implies is that online dating is the place where one gets syphilis, which is nothing less than the blatant stigmatization of those that use the Internet for dating. This shaming is not only directed towards gay men, where the majority of syphilis cases are found, but it is also directed towards the 1 in 6 couples that were married within the last 3 years that met online.

There have been many studies that have looked at behaviors, HIV/STDs risks, and Internet use. The general outcome of this research is conflicting as the studies often contradict one another. Taken as a full body of work, they do not even come close to painting a clear picture of the correlation between HIV/STD risk and Internet use – because Internet use is a red herring in the discussion of HIV/STD risk. But the research is easily fundable as a ‘hot topic’ that is ‘poorly understood’ so the studies proliferate.

I believe this campaign is not only a waste of precious Canadian dollars but has potential to ultimately cause harm by ostracizing those that use the Internet for dating. I also believe that the site portrays public health as judgmental and completely out of touch with today’s realities.

PlentyofSyph is a prime example of how public health fails to understand that using social media for health promotion, disease prevention, and infection intervention activities requires a different attitude. Campaigns that use social media must be more consumer aware and apply an ‘opt-in’ approach that engages users, rather than adapting the old information ‘push’ approach that often uses stigma, shame and fear to change behavior.


There are 4 comments

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  1. Chip

    Woah. Like it or not, I think that things like this make one re-think the choices they may make. Even though it’s satirical nature might offend some, I understand that it’s almost like hearing those words of wisdom that you just aren’t ready to hear.

    I’m no expert, but I absolutely believe that the internet is an indirect cause for the rise in STDs in certain areas. I can use myself as an example. I would have no clue as to where to meet men in my area if not for a site like this. Not that I use the site as a meat market, but say I wanted to hook up and didn’t know anyone, it could be as easy as sending a few naughty pictures to someone online. I could potentially hook up with someone who is infected, and become infected myself. That could have never happened were it not for “dating” sites like these.

  2. brandon

    oh those poor people whom use the internet for hooking up. what will people think of them. a4a got me a case of the clap.

  3. Patrick Brogan

    Down boy! You’re missing the whole point. To get the message out on the very medium where people meet is an effective communication tool. When condoms and literature started showing up in HIV/AIDS prevention packages in bars and baths, was that a bad thing? Think about it.

  4. Jfnsbca

    About a year ago I traveled to Cincinnati, OH to visit family and friends. While I was there I met up with several guys that I’d met on Adam4Adam we had a good time and all but little did I know that I’d brought an unexpected present home. I got back to life in Southern CA and began losing weight and just thought it was as the result of seeing my nephews who are only a few years younger than myself, having gotten so overweight. About 6 weeks after my return I began to develop some odd symptoms (excruciating back pain & feeling like the nerve endings were on fire…I thought maybe shingles initially) and eventually broke out in a rash on my scrotum that I originally thought I’d caught from the whirlpool at the gym. Fortunately my astute MD tested me for syphilis and just in time for my birthday in August I found out that I was positive and required two injections of penicillin! Because my doctor specializes in infectious diseases and treats me for HIV he suggested we do a spinal tap to make sure that the syphilis had not crossed the blood brain barrier only to find out that I now had Neuro-syphilis and needed to endure a course of intravenous antibiotics! By the end of September I was back to normal, having survived a reaction to either the antibiotic (penicillin) and having to be desensitized to it so they could begin it again or an odd rash attributed to the secondary syphilis it’s still unclear.
    That’s my online “dating” story. Play safe, get tested…especially if you begin having odd symptoms.
    Fortunately, after my return from Ohio I was not engaging in sexual activity upon my return to California so I did not share my gift with anyone that I’d need to later inform and tell them they needed to get tested!
    Again, have fun but play safe…so you don’t need to endure the ordeal that I went through!

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