PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:

Cathleen D. Bennett

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Office of Communications
(609) 984-7160

Medical and Family Health Groups Join NJ State, County and Local Health Departments on Congenital Syphilis Prevention Campaign

3rd Public Awareness Campaign on STDs This Year

To reduce Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) and prevent pregnant women from passing syphilis on to their newborns, the New Jersey Department of Health and key partners have launched the “Protect Your Baby from Syphilis” awareness campaign to educate pregnant women, their partners and doctors about the importance of getting tested and treated for syphilis.


“Congenital syphilis is on the rise nationally, and after three years of no confirmed cases in New Jersey, a dozen infants were born with congenital syphilis last year. That is 12 too many,” Health Commissioner Cathleen D. Bennett said. “Early treatment is essential. If not treated early, congenital syphilis can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, prematurity, low birth weight, blindness, meningitis or even death after birth.” Penicillin G is the only effective medication for syphilis in pregnant women. If treatment is initiated at least 30 days prior to delivery, congenital syphilis will likely be prevented.


The campaign includes a new prevention webpage, downloadable congenital syphilis prevention posters in English, Spanish, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, Bengali and Arabic, social media using #teSTD4baby, bus and corner store advertising, and journal publications. Campaign materials have been shared with county and local health departments, hospitals, community health centers, WIC offices, college campuses, Family Success Centers, county welfare offices and boards of social services, public housing authorities, child care centers, the New Jersey Poison Information and Education System (NJPIES), faith-based groups and community health workers, who are attending a training today focused on STDs and congenital syphilis.


Because physicians play a key role in preventing congenital syphilis, eight medical and family health groups joined Commissioner Bennett in co-signing a letter to health care providers promoting the campaign. Providers were asked to post a link to the new prevention webpage, share the prevention message and display copies of the congenital syphilis poster in clinics, medical offices, health care facility lobbies, client waiting rooms, and other high traffic areas. Providers were also asked to promote the campaign on social media using the hashtag #teSTD4baby and to follow the Department on Twitter @njdeptofhealth, Facebook /njdeptofhealth,

Instagram @njdeptofhealth and Snapchat @njdoh.


The campaign was developed based on input from a focus group of community health workers and an internal Department task force that met over the summer. The letter was signed by Commissioner Bennett and includes the endorsement of the New Jersey Hospital Association; the state chapters of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), and the Academy of Family Physicians; the New Jersey Primary Care Association; and the Maternal and Child Health Consortia: the Central Jersey Family Health Consortium, the Partnership for Maternal and Child Health of Northern NJ, and the Southern Jersey Perinatal Cooperative.


The ACOG and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend screening for syphilis at the first prenatal visit and re-screening early in the third trimester and again at delivery if a patient is at increased risk. As part of the campaign, the Department is asking clinicians to talk to pregnant women about their sexual histories during all prenatal visits, and if a risk factor is present (history of syphilis, substance use, multiple partners, and residence in high syphilis rate areas) to re-test women early in the third trimester and again at delivery.


The “Protect Your Baby From Syphilis” public awareness campaign is the third STD public awareness campaign the Department has launched this year. “Get #TeSTD” drew attention to the fact that one in two sexually active young people will get an STD by age 25.  Posters were shared with colleges and universities, local health departments, and on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) where young people spend a lot of time. The posters are available to download on the Department’s website at www.nj.gov/health/hivstdtb/. In addition, an STD awareness campaign called #Never2old targeted seniors and was shared with senior centers. Posters are available to download on our website.


A list of STD testing sites can be found at www.nj.gov/health/hivstdtb/stds/locations.shtml. On Sept. 28, the Department is co-sponsoring the New Jersey Gay Men's Awareness Day Summit (https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2017-new-jersey-gay-mens-awareness-day-summit-tickets-34867225811).


For more information about congenital syphilis, please visit: www.cdc.gov/std/syphilis/stdfact-congenital-syphilis.htm. 2016 state data on STDs can be found at: http://www.nj.gov/health/hivstdtb/stds/stats.shtml


Follow the Department on Twitter @njdeptofhealth, Facebook /njdeptofhealth,

Instagram @njdeptofhealth and Snapchat @njdoh.

Last Reviewed: 9/26/2017