History of Sexually Transmitted Diseases

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History of Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Sexually Transmitted Diseases, or commonly known as STDs, are the most common diseases known to man and it is one of the largest growing issues not only in the United States of America but around the globe. Sexually transmitted diseases are primarily spread through sexual contact from individual to individual, whether it is oral, vaginal, or anal sex. It can also be passed on by skin to skin contact such as through skin lesions, sores, sharing needles, or even by wearing the same clothing or lying in the same bedding as the individual who might have it. There are two different types of STDs, viral or viruses which are non-living and need a host to survive, this group includes Herpes and AIDS. Another type of STD is bacterial, with examples such as Chlamydia, Syphillis, and Gonorrhea. In this essay, I will be exploring the history of these sexually transmitted diseases.

Herpes

Cases of Herpes had been documented as early as in fact, the name Herpes was taken from the ancient Greek language. “Hippocrates is known to have described the cutaneous spreading of herpes simplex lesions and scholars of Greek civilization define thegreek word "herpes" to mean "to creep or crawl" in reference the spreading nature of the herpetic skin lesions.” (Siegel, 2007) Although Herpes virus was identified in 1919, early civilizations realized that it was a real problem to society - ancient Roman Emperor Tiberius introduced a ban on kissing at public events to try and curb the spread. Even British playwright William Shakespear wrote about the disease. In Romeo and Juliet, he writes Queen Mab to say "O'er ladies lips, who straight on kisses dream, which oft the angry Mab with blisters plagues, because their breaths with sweetmeats tainted are." One common belief in the ancient times was that the disease was caused by insect bites, which seems like an obvious explanation given the sores that the Herpes virus creates.

Not much is known about early attempts to treat the disease, but physician Celsus' experimental phase: he advocated that the sores be cauterised with a hot iron. It was not until 1893 when Vidal recognized that human transmission of Herpes was from one individual to another. And in 1919, Lowenstein confirmed experimentally the infectious nature of HSV. Before this time, people were unsure that herpes was a virus – in fact, many considered it to be like other common skin conditions, such as eczema, which cannot be transmitted. In the 1920's and 1930's, the natural history of HSV was widely studied and it was found that HSV not only infects the skin, but also the central nervous system. Herpes is certainly not just a modern phenomenon, it has been around for a while and unfortunately, unless a cure is found, it will continue to exist.

Syphilis

How syphilis was passed to nearly every corner of the globe is a trek that is still hotly debated today. It seems that nobody can agree on when and where this tiny bacteria began to dig out its own niche in human history. For centuries, many scholars and physicians tried to convince an audience that syphilis originated in either the Old World, the New World, or in both places independently. They have concluded that there are two major theories on the origin of syphilis, the “pre-Columbian theory”, and the “Columbian Exchange theory”.

It is generally agreed upon by historians and anthropologists that syphilis was present among the indigenous peoples of the Americas before Europeans discovered the New World. However, whether strains of syphilis were present in the entire world for millennia, or if the disease was confined to the Americas in the pre-Columbian era, is debated.

Many scholars believe syphilis was a New World disease brought back by Christopher Columbus.

“In the work "Tractado contra el mal serpentino" written in 1510 and published in 1539, Ruy Diaz de Isla refers to have cured,...
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