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NYC Rolls Out Sexy Emojis To Promote STD Tests

New Yorkers are doing sex, as they are wont to do, but they're not doing it very safely—according to the Health Department, STDs are on the rise. So now city officials are reaching out to The Sex-Crazed Youngs using their distinctive Young Lingo, and since The Youngs have reportedly pivoted from the English language to emojis, the Health Department will use sexy pieces of fruit to tell kids to get tested.

According to the DOH, rates of syphilis increased by 27 percent from 2015 to 2016; gonorrhea rates ticked up 13 percent and chlamydia rates increased six percent during that timeframe, with numbers going up particularly among men who have sex with men. This is in keeping with STI rate increases nationwide, but in New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio has pledged to fight the surge, investing an annual $23 million to reduce HIV infections and STIs. The Health Department's new ad campaign encouraging safe sex, which will run on bus shelters and subways as well as on social media and apps like Twitter, Facebook, and Grindr, is part of that initiative.

"The increase in rates of sexually transmitted infections is a disturbing national trend that has had a widespread impact on this city," Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said in a statement. "Fortunately, these infections are easily preventable and treatable when detected early." Blah blah blah tell it to us in sickeningly suggestive food illustrations, lady!

I jest. Public awareness campaigns are an important part of combating disease, but the actual ads themselves are...interesting. I am no longer a Young and prefer communicating with my partners using words or passive aggression, so I'm not quite sure what say, a peach and a phone emoji means, and an office survey yielded several wrong answers (Buttdial? Phone sex? Fruit sext?) before we figured out it was a "booty call." A taco and an eggplant is slightly less cryptic, but only because I managed to sit through all of the Seth Rogen film Sausage Party. I would not want to go up against a teen in a game of Pictionary.

But Assistant Health Commissioner Susan Blank says the gross emojis will get people's attention, which is the whole point of a public health campaign. "It’s the talk that causes the uncomfortable giggle, but the more we do it, the better people will feel about having discussions that are really important to their health," she told the Daily News. Blank also noted that the emojis themselves are partially to blame for the spike in STDs, sort of. "The digital age has brought with it technology, like hookup apps, that make it easier to engage in high-risk behavior," she told the News.

Anyway, try not to ride the bus with your grandmother until this campaign ends, lest you be forced to explain what it means when an eggplant squirts into a nectarine. And stay tuned for forthcoming public service announcements about the risks of grinding your phone into a peach.

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