The incidence of syphilis is spiking in the economically hard-hit South, and health officials have lit on a novel preventative measure, MSNBC reports: Wal-Mart gift cards. Syphilis tends to rebound in tough times, and a program in North Carolina induces patients to submit to a test in exchange for the $10 economic incentive. The number of cases this year in Forsyth County, 140, is already more than triple the number in all of 2008.
Elsewhere in the South, where poverty and poor access to health care conspire to keep syphilis alive, health programs are trying other incentives, like McDonald’s vouchers. “A woman came up to me and said, you know, with their dollar menu, I can get five meals out of this,” a health official says. Syphilis, once firmly under control, has rebounded since 2002, with almost twice as many cases now than 10 years ago. (Read more syphilis stories.)