Bloodshot Billboards: Eye Syphilis is Serious

In Featured, News by Ged Kenslea

AHF’s latest eye-catching out-of-home campaign draws attention to an uptick in cases of sexually transmitted infection that impacts vision

LOS ANGELES – AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is using the image of two giant bloodshot, infected eyes and the blurry words “Eye Syphilis is Serious” along with the URL to draw attention to the importance of getting tested for ocular syphilis, a sexually transmitted infection (STI) which can cause blurred vision, floaters, light sensitivity, and even blindness if left untreated.

Cases of syphilis are on the rise nationwide, and according to CNN, researchers in Chicago found more than two dozen cases last year of patients reporting unusual symptoms, such as vision and eye problems consistent with ocular syphilis.

“Syphilis itself is at an all-time high, and cases of ocular syphilis are likely to be underreported,” said Dr. Michael Dube, National Medical Director for AHF’s Public Health Division. “Symptoms that impact the eyes are becoming more common and can have permanent negative health outcomes, so we are drawing attention to the need for people to get tested.”

A 2019 study of 41,187 syphilis cases from 16 states found that 1.1% of those cases were ocular syphilis and were more likely (60%) to present in people living with HIV than people who are not.

AHF’s outdoor advertising campaign will run in 12 states (CA, FL, GA, IL, LA, MD, MS, NV, NY, OH, TX, and WA) and Washington, DC for a three-month rotation, featuring the eye-catching image on billboards, transit shelters, bus interiors, posters, benches, standalone kiosks, and more.

The most notable recent outbreak of ocular syphilis occurred in Michigan in 2022. Five women presented to their individual providers with blurry eyesight, floaters, and double vision, all within a few weeks of each other. All five women had ocular syphilis from sexual contact with the same man who had asymptomatic syphilis.

The CDC recommends screening for syphilis in any patient that presents with new changes in their vision, especially if they fall into risk categories such as men who have sex with men (MSM), people living with HIV (PLWH), and people with multiple or anonymous partners.


Treatment for ocular syphilis should be managed alongside an ophthalmologist. If a client diagnosed with syphilis has any new issues with their eyes, they should be screened for ocular syphilis. Those with ocular syphilis should be tested for HIV.

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