The treatment of Sexually Transmitted Infections has moved on almost as much as the name we use to describe them: Venereal Diseases (VD) Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) etc.
Syphilis in the 1400s was rife across Europe and as many as 10% of all men carried the disease (which can be fatal) by the 19th Century. Syphilis was associated with the use of prostitutes and gay sex and carried such a social stigma that most carriers did not want to consider treatment for fear of social disgrace. This secretive nature helped the disease spread.
Most soldiers were aware of the consequences of sexual activity, but it did not seem to stop them. During the First World War (1914-1918) there were over half a million hospital admissions for STIs. Syphilis infection rates remained high during the Second World War (1939-1945), but the advent of penicillin helped to treat this disease.
Public health prevention services concentrated on the military and prostitutes not coming into contact with each other in attempt to limit the spread of the disease, as it was these groups which had the highest infection rates.
The treatment used to be the application of mercury which has a number of distressing side effects and was of limited effectiveness, a drug called Salvarsan was developed in the early 1900s.
Syphilis can be easily and quickly detected in a blood test which takes less than one day to run in the laboratory. Happily these days, once identified it can be easily treated and death is preventable.
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