The Evolution of Venereal Disease and its Treatment

achiles's picture

 Anna Chiles

Biology 103

Professor Grobstein
Web Paper II due November 8, 2009
The Evolution of Venereal Disease and its Treatment
Because epidemics of HIV/AIDS and other Sexually Transmitted Diseases have plagued the late 20th and early 21st centuries, Venereal Disease is often considered a modern problem. However, diseases such as Herpes, Syphilis, and Gonorrhea have been around for centuries. This paper will first explore the history of STD diagnosis and treatment and, secondly, discuss recent advances in science and technology that have allowed doctors to focus on prevention, rather than treatment.
            The first recorded experience with a known STD occurred in ancient Greece, where the virus, Herpes, got its name (which means to creep or crawl). The first experimental treatment of this easily spread disease is recorded to consist of burning skin lesions with hot iron. While the Greeks were limited by inadequate technology and understanding of medicine, they did institute certain social “treatments” aimed at halting the spread of Herpes. Certain Greek rulers banned kissing in the public forum. [1] Herpes is still rampant today, due to its easy-to-spread nature.
            From medieval times to the 20th century, the prevalence and spread of Syphilis was rampant. Before the development of arsenic-based drugs and Penicillin, Syphilis was “treated” with orally ingested Mercury. A misguided understanding of the disease ignored the late symptoms and focused only on the sores associated with this deadly disease. And, because the sores often disappeared on their own, it took centuries for scientists to understand that Mercury was not a legitimate treatment. Today, Syphilis is only a threat when it goes undetected.
            Often mistaken for Syphilis, Gonorrhea. Early patients of Gonorrhea were subjected to a treatment of injecting Mercury into the infected area, the urethra. Before antibiotics were developed in the mid 20th century, other treatments included silver nitrate and cordial silver. Today, Gonorrhea is easily treated with a course of antibiotics.
            The late 20th century saw a rise in the prevalence of Herpes and Gonorrhea, and an identification of the epidemic diseases HIV/AIDS, HPV, and Chlamydia. As scientists and researchers have grown to better understand these diseases and how they are contracted, they grow closer to developing treatment and prevention.
For example, twenty years ago, researchers noticed an uncanny link between several strands of the Human Papilloma Virus, or HPV, and Cervical cancer in women. In recent years, scientists have developed a revolutionary vaccine, Gardasil, for the most common strands of HPV. While Gardasil certainly does not completely eliminate the risk associated with HPV, it reduces the chance of contracting the strands of HPV most closely linked with cervical cancer. The FDA and the CDC are recommending vaccination for girls between the ages of 9 and 26.
Why is this important? The notion of prevention, of vaccinating pre-pubescent girls in order to eliminate their chances of contracting the disease once sexually active, is very significant in the reducing the stigma of STD screening, prevention, and treatment. Sociologists argue that the reason that the spread of HIV/AIDS is so rampant today is that infected individuals avoid testing and, consequently, treatment because of fear of the social stigma associated with STDs and, more pronounced, with HIV/AIDS. If we can reduce the stigma by promoting the vaccine for all women, even girls, then we can truly and effectively combat HPV. Today, scientists are working on the development of an HIV/AIDS vaccine. When this is accomplished, and only then, the stigma-induced dangers of HIV/AIDS and its spread will be significantly reduced. In the next 50 years, we will see tremendous advancement in the study, treatment, and prevention of Venereal Disease. Hopefully, for the generations to come, Venereal Disease will join the Mumps and Polio as an epidemic of the past.
 
Works Cited
 


[1] Ezine articles. “The History of STDs.” http://ezinearticles.com/?The-History-of-STDs&id=1565331

Comments

Paul Grobstein's picture

the evolution of the history of venereal disease?

The history can certainly be read as one of progressive reduction of ignorance, with the prospect of continuing "tremendous advancement."  I wonder, though, as with thinking about evolution, we might be imposing our own wish for progress on a process that is actually much less one of continual movement toward perfection?

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