si-cgy-syphilis

An online syphilis awareness campaign that parodies an internet dating site has upset the makers of the real site. (Alberta Health and Wellness)

A provincial campaign to raise awareness about the spiking rate of syphilis infections in Alberta is drawing criticism.

The province launched a website called plentyofsyph.com — a parody of the popular online dating site, Plentyoffish.com.

"Welcome to PlentyofSyph.com. In moments, you'll be connected to plenty of profiles, greetings and genital sores from hot local singles infected with syphilis," the ad reads.

Dr. Andre Corriveau, Alberta's Chief Medical Officer of Health, said the point of the campaign is to grab the attention of young people.

"Even though the site is designed as a lure or way of attracting people there really is a serious undertone," he said.

Alberta has the highest rate of syphilis in the country and the numbers are still growing. In 2009 there were about 280 new cases of the disease, compared with just two a decade earlier, Corriveau said.

But the owners of the dating site being parodied say the campaign goes too far. 

"We find the campaign of poor taste. I myself am most surprised that we were not asked for any sort of consent. They just went and did it without any consideration for a brand we have worked hard to build," said Kate Bilenki, who speaks for Vancouver-based PlentyofFish.com.

Bilenki did not say whether Plentyoffish.com is considering legal action against the province of Alberta.