on 3 April 2015
A good account of the history of syphilis from the first emergence of the disease in western Europe in 1494 to late 20th century when its fearsome and dreaded reputation had been somewhat tamed by antibiotics. It's also an illuminating tale of medical treatments and the views, enlightened or otherwise, of the doctors involved. It's still shocking to read of the Tuskagee Study that ran from 1932 to 1972 in the USA where doctors deliberately withheld treatment from a group of African-American men to see the long-term effects of untreated syphilis. Utterly immoral and reprehensible.
On a lighter note I was fascinated to think of the connection between the rise in fashion of powdered wigs in the 17th and 18th centuries and syphilis - a side effect of infection (and the mercury-based treatments) was hair-loss. I think I'd pass at attending the No-Nosed Club in 18th century London though.
If every you're feeling a bit sexy, pick up this book and it'll take the edge off your lust. We are reminded that sexually transmissible infection 'is common in the community and is no respecter of age, sex or station in life.'
And oh how repulsive the list of infections is: herpes, chlamydia, syphilis, AIDS - with its attendant pustules, ulcers, scabs, itches and sores.
Kevin Brown tells the story of syphilis in all its gruesome detail. He's a good narrator and the subject matter reveals how human beings project evils onto others and seek to deny their appetites and sins. For example, when the pox was discovered the Italians called it the 'Spanish' or the 'French Disease'. The French called it the 'Pox of Naples'. In Japan they called it the 'Portuguese Sickness', Tahitians called it the British disease. To the Turks, it was known as the 'Christian' disease.
Casual sex will never feel the same again...