When you do what we do, you get used to receiving a lot of negative comments. But nothing prepared us for this.

As many of you already know, for the last year Anchor of Hope has been offering free & confidential testing and limited treatment for a wide array of sexually transmitted diseases and infections (STDs and STIs). This service – which we offer to everyone regardless of income, sexual orientation, gender, education, insurance availability or anything else – has been incredibly popular and well received.

With hundreds of new patients, and high marks on exit surveys for both staff and quality of service, we we’re knocking it out of the park! But even though we were helping a lot of people, we knew there were more people out there who didn’t know about our services.

So, we came up with some clever social media posts. Well, we thought they were clever.

On August 8 we created a post saying, “Catch more than rays at the beach this summer? Free STD testing.” Here’s why we felt this message worked:

  1. Young people (our target audience) go to the beach to tan (or catch some rays)
  2. The beach is still a place where teens and young adults meet new people
  3. Many studies have been done on the rise in sexually transmitted diseases in the summer months, and (anecdotally) we see more patients during the summer months
  4. We offer free STD/STI testing

Basically, this message hit all the points we wanted to hit, but some people didn’t see it that way.

 

And now we’re the bad guys?

So, first we need to clarify that this post did not go viral. You’d think it did by the content of comments we received, including:

“STI’s aren’t a laughing matter”

“Educational conversations about how to prevent, treat, and live with a lifelong diagnosis are vital, not making jokes about serious matters.”

“This is a pretty distasteful way to talk about STIs and STDs”

“This totally trivializes women’s health care”

Again, I would like to point out that we thought our message was clever and “on brand.” But we heard these complaints and removed the post. Now, I wish we hadn’t. It started a conversation that we are now going to have a hard time finishing.

 

Clever can go too far, but did it?

When we first started talking about Anchor of Hope offering free and confidential STD/STI testing almost two years ago, we discussed ways we could promote it. One was to have signs above the urinals in men’s bathrooms that said, “Did that hurt? It shouldn’t. Free STD/STI testing.”

And we would have gone through with it, but our unearned reputation of being anti-abortion, Bible-thumping nutjobs preceded us and we ran into brick walls trying to purchase the necessary ad space. That still hurts, by the way.

And, while we know that some people would have objected to that messaging, we also knew it would hit some people at just the right time – during a private and very painful moment.

You see – STIs & STDs are a serious subject that nobody likes to talk about, which is precisely why we bring the topic up in conversation whenever possible. Humor is a great tool. We can’t afford to get Miley Cyrus to take off her top and eat a cake.

And we did get people talking – which is great. Sadly, they missed the point!

Our role in this whole thing

“Educational conversations about how to prevent, treat, and live with a lifelong diagnosis are vital, not making jokes about serious matters.”

This comment is absolutely correct! Of course, the only real way to prevent STIs, STDs and unplanned pregnancies is abstinence, but whenever we bring that up we’re told we’re being unreasonable. You can’t have it both ways people!

From a very young age, kids are taught about sex, sexual disease, prevention, etc. It’s part of the state and federally mandated and supported curriculum. Kids know about condoms, they know about birth control, they know about sexually transmitted diseases, they know things that sometimes surprise us!

Then parents have “the talk,” or they should have the talk with them. Some just ask, “did you learn about sex at school. Any questions? No? Good. Do your homework.”

Then, the media steps in. There are public service announcements about safe sex, ads for drugs that thwart pregnancy and HIV, and commercials for condoms. Then Hollywood steps in …. You get where we’re going with this.

With all that information, why are STIs/STDs still increasing at epidemic rates? Because people completely ignore it!

Now, people have no problem criticizing us for not offering pregnancy/disease prevention services and free condoms. But, we are all about prevention and making healthy sexual choices! We strongly advocate for sexual risk avoidance, which by the way, is evidence based. Everyone else is saying “have sex, just use a condom” (which, at best, are 85% effective at preventing pregnancy and don’t always prevent the spread of herpes and genital warts) or “get on the pill” (99.7% effective preventing pregnancy, 0% effective preventing diseases).

So, we offer help when those methods don’t work. We offer confidential and free STI, STD and Pregnancy testing. We provide counseling for people, information about disease prevention and treatment options, support for women who are pregnant and need help-all FREE of charge. We don’t promote abortions, because we don’t. That’s our truth. It breaks our hearts when someone chooses that, but we also don’t stand in front of Planned Parenthood with photos of aborted fetuses. That doesn’t help the freaked out woman entering our facility.

But at the end of the day, we do help a lot people.

Back to social media

It’s easy to make a comment on a social media post. It’s easy to write that something “trivializes women’s health care” or is “distasteful” and not a “laughing matter.” And, maybe our post wasn’t great. But, really, was it that bad?

 

Similar media campaigns exist using light humor, satire, or other creative methods to engage the intended audience.

 

 

We know that some people just like to have their voice heard. We just want to help people, and we do. Every single day we are open, we help people. We help them through some of the scariest times of their lives … for free! And, we offer them something that is absolutely precious – hope.

As for your comments, we heard them. We’re sorry you feel that way, but we regret taking down the post because it ultimately prevented us from reaching more people about our free & confidential STD, STI and pregnancy testing.

 

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