OBJECTIVES Teach HIV-negative men who have sex with men (MSM) symptoms of acute HIV infection (AHI) and direct them to nucleic acid amplification testing (NAAT) though Public Health--Seattle & King County (PHSKC). DESIGN Cross-sectional surveys, retrospective database analysis and chart review. METHODS Beginning in June 2009, the ru2hot? campaign described AHI symptoms and NAAT. Two preintervention and two postintervention surveys assessed campaign visibility, symptom knowledge, and healthcare-seeking behaviour. Regression analyses evaluated secular trends in case-finding. RESULTS 366 MSM completed surveys. In survey 4, 23% of 100 men reported seeing the campaign, and 25% knew 'ru2hot?' referred to AHI. From survey 1 to survey 4, the proportion of subjects who knew ≥2 symptoms or that AHI was a 'flu-like' illness was unchanged (61% vs 57%, p=0.6). However, in survey 4, 13 (72%) of 18 subjects who saw the campaign named fever as a symptom of AHI compared with 19 (35%) of 55 subjects who had not seen the campaign (p=0.005). From 9/2003 to 12/2010, 622 (2.2%) of 27 661 MSM tested HIV-positive, and 111 (18%) were identified by the Public Health--Seattle & King County NAAT programme. In terms of the impact of the campaign on case-finding, diagnosis of EIA-negative/NAAT-positive and OraQuick-negative/EIA-positive cases increased from six in 2004 to 20 in 2010 (p=0.01), but postcampaign numbers were unchanged. 23 (51%) of 45 cases identified before and 8 (44%) of 18 cases identified after the campaign reported symptoms at initial testing (p=0.6). CONCLUSIONS Although a quarter of MSM surveyed saw the campaign and knowledge of fever (the symptom of emphasis) was high, case-finding was unchanged. Increasing campaign visibility could have had greater impact.