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Health ministry’s provocative STD posters gain attention amid syphilis surge

Poster released four year ago by the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare warns that STDs can be spread through oral sex
Poster released four year ago by the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare warns that STDs can be spread through oral sex

TOKYO (TR) – Last month, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare summoned comic book character Sailor Moon via a poster and leaflet campaign to encourage young women to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases.

This wasn’t the fist time the ministry got creative in attempting to convey a message regarding sex. Four years before, it issued a rather bold poster warning that oral sex can be a means for contracting STDs.

With the number of syphilis cases on the rise, J-Cast News reports (Dec. 10) decided to find out who is behind these unique campaigns.

During a visit to the ministry last week, an official from the tuberculosis disease division who was in charge of designing the poster told J-Cast that the aim was to reach out to the public with a bold message at a time when the number of people infected with syphilis has grown by about five times since 2011.

Four years ago, the ministry took an abstract approach through a poster depicting male and female stick figures positioned mutually inverted against a red background.

Juxtaposed against two figures holding hands against a blue background underneath, the poster features accompanying text under the headline “Oral sex. It spreads by oral means, too,” which explains the risks of STDs and how they can spread by giving as well as receiving oral sex.

On Twitter, users have praised the poster, finding it to be a spirited effort that breaks away from typically conservative approaches. The Sailor Moon poster also garnered attention on social media.

The reason behind the sudden surge of syphilis cases is unknown, the official said, adding people were becoming infected in everyday life even without visiting the likes of brothels.

Some 4,000 people were infected with syphilis this year as of November 27, according to an announcement by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases. In 2011, the figure stood at 877 for the entire year.

“What matters right now is that everyone needs to be made aware of this situation,” the official said. “That’s what the Sailor Moon poster was about as well, and we heard all kinds of opinions about that, which means it was getting attention, meaning we could call that a result. We’re going to keep making posters that get talked about.”