Region(s): North America
Issue(s): Health
Author: Tina Hoff, Senior Vice President, Director; Meredith Mishel, Senior Program Officer; and Sarah Levine, Senior Program Officer, Health Communication & Media Partnerships Program, Kaiser Family Foundation Sponsoring organization: NGO Organization(s): Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation
GYT: Get Yourself Tested
Agency: MTV and Kaiser Family Foundation Contact: Tina Hoff thoff@kff.org Additional Creative Materials:

Campaign Info

Scope of Good Practice

"GYT: Get Yourself Tested" is a youthful, empowering media and community outreach campaign to reduce the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) among young people through information; open communication with partners, health care providers and parents; and testing and treatment as needed. GYT was developed as part of It’s Your (Sex) Life, a longstanding public information partnership of MTV and the Kaiser Family Foundation, together with the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Planned Parenthood and other partners. The comprehensive campaign website received more than four million visits from 2009 – 2012 and affiliated clinics report significant increases in the number of people who seek STD testing during months when GYT is promoted.

The Problem Addressed by the Campaign

Of the 19 million new STDs that are reported annually in the U.S., half are among people under 25. Since STDs often have no symptoms, many of those who are infected don’t know it and don't get treatment.  Lack of information, misconceptions and stigma related to STDs also keep many from getting tested and treated. Diagnosis and treatment is critical to safeguarding personal health, as well as preventing transmission to others. Routine screening is the standard for many common STDs. The CDC also recommends all Americans get tested for HIV as part of routine health care — yet few do.

Background Research

Campaign messages were informed by national surveys and focus groups among the target audience. To encourage STD testing, campaign messages sought to increase STD awareness and perceived risk; promote open communication around sexual health with partners and health care providers; and normalize testing as part of good health.

National surveys of youth by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that young people in the U.S. say that STDs, including HIV, remain a serious concern for their generation. Yet, many are less concerned personally about STDs and HIV and underestimate their own risk. Youth reported stigma around STDs and HIV as a significant issue in the U.S. today, indicating the need for a national effort to address these issues openly. Acknowledging the gaps in their knowledge and understanding, many young people said they want to know more about STDs and HIV, including even the most basic facts. Notably, many youth said that they have never been tested for STDs or HIV, even though they are sexually active.  

The CDC conducted focus groups with the target audience to inform the campaign.

Campaign messages are continuously revised based on actual responses to the campaign.


For a generation accustomed to communicating in shorthand, the GYT acronym presented testing in a context that is familiar and relatable to young people. The cross-platform campaign included targeted public service announcements (PSAs), entertainment and other special programming, news segments and free resources, including an extensive website. All of these resources were distributed through on-the-ground community partners. GYT encourages testing as an act of pride and promotes open dialogue about STDs by encouraging young people to spread the word about GYT. Popular talent was engaged to support the campaign’s messages. GYT operates year-round with new elements introduced in April to coincide with National STD Awareness Day.


The Kaiser Family Foundation worked closely with MTV’s creative department to produce on-air PSAs and special programming that aired on MTV, MTV2 and mtvU, and digital and social components promoted on MTV.com and MTV social properties. Complementary community elements (e.g., community toolkits) were distributed and presented through the CDC, Planned Parenthood, and other national partners. All elements directed to online and mobile resources. In year one, GYT launched as a teaser campaign, designed for brand exposure and to help explain the “get yourself tested” acronym. In year two, the campaign focused on talking about testing with your partner and provider. It addressed the barriers to testing and highlighted the ease of testing with the “get yourself talking, get yourself tested” tagline. In year three, the campaign featured a new look and a new tagline — GYT was an inspiring movement that everyone can be a part of. “Know yourself, know your status — GYT” encourages everyone to incorporate GYT into a healthy lifestyle. In year four, the campaign continued with the theme, look and feel, and messages of year three — “know yourself, know your status — GYT” and refreshed messages with new celebrities and artists joining Team GYT.


All GYT on-air media time was donated by MTV. Elements of the GYT campaign include:

  • On-air Promotions and Programming – PSAs and special news and entertainment programming presented on MTV normalized and promoted testing, encouraging communication with health care providers and partners.
  • Special Programming – Special programming content, including MTV News segments, the Most Outrageous Sex Myths show, and a World AIDS Day I’m Positive special (presented under GYT) aired across MTV Networks, reaching millions of young viewers.
  • Community Toolkits – Free materials to organize and promote STD testing. 
  • GYTNOW.org – A consumer website with information about STDs, testing, an online testing center locator, interactive features and the GYT Toolkit.
  • GYTNOW on Mobile – A mobile testing center locator. 
  • Events and Local Promotions – On-the-ground activations at concerts and testing events.
  • Sweepstakes and Contests – Sweepstakes and other audience engagement activities to incentivize STD testing. 
  • Talent – Popular musical artists and celebrities speaking out on behalf of the campaign. 
  • GYT Nation – GYT on Facebook and Twitter, serving as the digital meeting place promoting STD testing.


GYT distributed 15,500 community toolkits, consisting of promotional and informational materials, including t-shirts, posters, buttons, brochures and stickers nationwide to thousands of health centers and organizations for April promotions in 2009  2012.

Since launching in April 2009 (through December 2012), GYT had more than 4 million visits to the campaign website and provided more than 200,000 online and mobile referrals to testing locations through FindSTDTest.org.

Some of the most compelling evidence in support of the reach of GYT was the testing data collected by community partners, notably Planned Parenthood affiliates and health centers. Planned Parenthood has approximately 80 locally governed affiliates that operate nearly 800 health centers nationwide. During the 2011 GYT campaign, Planned Parenthood health centers tested almost 125,000 men and women in April. Data collected from 10 Planned Parenthood affiliates show that STD testing has increased significantly since the launch of GYT in 2009. Among the 10 affiliates, there was a 51 percent increase in patients getting tested in April 2011 as compared to the same time in 2008, prior to the launch of the campaign — suggesting that the campaign helped drive an increase in STD tests. Nationally, Planned Parenthood reported significant increases in testing among the populations most affected by STDs, including African Americans and people living at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level.

In a February 2012 survey of MTV viewers between the ages of 14 – 24 conducted by the network, one in two (50 percent) were familiar with the GYT: Get Yourself Tested campaign and a slightly higher percentage (63 percent) knew the longer-running, It’s Your (Sex) Life effort. Large percentages of those who had seen the campaign, two in five (44 percent) reported that they have taken action — such as having a conversation about STDs or getting tested for STDsas a direct result.

Conclusions and Recommendations

The messaging on MTV’s properties was reinforced through partnerships with Kaiser Family Foundation, Planned Parenthood, the American College Health Association, and National Association of STD Directors. By leveraging the appeal and reach of MTV’s assets, the partnership allowed the CDC, another partner, to use its limited STD prevention dollars to support the development and distribution of community materials for use in health centers and clinics.

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