"A few green islands of intelligent activity": the history of medical and societal attitudes toward sexually transmitted diseases

by Molly Selvin


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Most of this essay is devoted to an historical overview of changing medical and societal attitudes toward the treatment of sexually transmitted diseases (STD) in patients. It concentrates on the various efforts to control STD as reflective of changing attitudes toward the diseases. First, however, the author briefly explores the extent of STD among famous historical figures, how the diseases afflicted them and, where possible, the historical consequences of their affliction. This essay is not concerned with advances in understanding the cause or treatment of STDs. Rather, it describes important changes in the diagnosis, treatment, and understanding of STDs only as these subjects relate to changes in the attitudes of the medical profession and the general public toward the diseases and their victims.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Paper series. The paper was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1948 to 2003 that captured speeches, memorials, and derivative research, usually prepared on authors' own time and meant to be the scholarly or scientific contribution of individual authors to their professional fields. Papers were less formal than reports and did not require rigorous peer review.

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