1 in 2 sexually active people will get an STI (sexually transmitted infection) before they’re 25. Chlamydia and gonorrhea incidence is high among young women in this group.
Yet only 17 states require medically accurate sex education. In fact, 63% of Gen Z women learn more about sexual health from social media than school. Young adults are NOT getting the info they need to take preventive measures like testing. This threatens their long-term health, including fertility.
Since its inception, YES Means TEST has empowered young women to embrace their sexual health and get tested for STIs (in line with CDC guidelines). The message is simple: When you say “yes” to sex, you also say “yes” to test. We seek to normalize STI conversations and break down testing barriers with informational, yet lighthearted content. Our social-first approach engages our target audience where they already consume content and leverages trusted figures who resonate with them. So with 78% of Gen Z women turning to TikTok on a daily basis, it was time to take YES Means TEST there, too.
The one problem: censorship. When talking about sex, TikTok users have to get clever with spelling. And when trying to smash STI stigma, “seggs” just doesn’t cut it.
So we set out to change that.
When we initially determined our target audience as women 18-24 years old—from an analysis of existing public health resources and our own proprietary consumer insight research—we knew we were taking on a population with a unique relationship to STIs.
We needed to fight the stigma, not fuel it, so we had to say and spell it out – the right way. We worked directly with the policy team at TikTok to challenge their status quo and permit us to use medically accurate terms that were restricted like “chlamydia,” “gonorrhea” and “sex”—no !fs, &s, or @s.
We engaged an array of creators (from sex savvy clinicians to educators and other go-to gals) who would resonate with Gen Z women—a multifaceted group that has varied interests and beliefs. With this in mind, we worked with two Gen Z lifestyle influencers who would represent figures that Gen Z women could relate to or identify with when talking about such a personal topic. To add more credibility, we engaged three professionals in the sexual healthcare field: an OB/GYN, a pediatrician and a sex ed educator.
These women leaned into TikTok trends like “a day in my life” and “get ready with me” to ensure the content felt native to the platform and similar to what users view online already.
Collectively, this group of voices reinforced YES Means TEST’s key messages to dispel myths about STIs and normalize conversations about regular testing. More importantly, these influencers helped drive action by encouraging young women to actually get tested.
When we Tok’d the talk—the real talk—we empowered young people to protect their sexual health.
We drove 3.4 million video views with a video view rate that exceeded TikTok benchmarks by 63%. In response, users engaged and replied. With 3.5K comments, Gen Z women shared their enthusiasm for resources like YES Means TEST, even noting, “I wish this was taught more in school...I've just been googling everything.”
More importantly, by spelling it out, we inspired action with clinic searches for testing exceeding TikTok’s average click-through rate by 183%, representing 3x more women searching for a clinic to get tested than our previous social campaigns.
A clinic locator tool on YESmeansTEST.org allows users to search for free, fast and confidential testing in the U.S., and the highest share of clinic searches came from the states lacking medically accurate sex education. That means we impacted the people who needed it most.
Ultimately, we reached our audience with reliable, credible sexual health information on a platform familiar to them—and in doing so, inspired them to take action and put their health first.