History of sexually transmitted infections (STI)

G Ital Dermatol Venereol. 2012 Aug;147(4):329-40.


Sexually transmitted diseases (STD) are as old as mankind and epidemics are mentioned already in the Old Testament. However, the perception of the conditions has changed over the centuries. In ancient times they were taken for an individual punishment for a blasphemic conduct of life or as a consequence of low sanitation and hygiene. In the medieval ages, the relation to sexual activities was recognized, but the diversity of clinical symptoms was seen as variations of one disease, depending on the stage of the disease and the general health condition of the diseased person. In the late 15th and 16th century a presumably "new plague" had been imported to Europe and was rapidly spread by soldiers. Misinterpretations of wrong experiments on the suspected identity of syphilis and gonorrhoea led to nosologic misconceptions in the 17th and early 19th century. The late 19th and beginning of 20st century due to the many achievements in microbiology and chemistry finally took the frightening threat from the STDs, which have terrorized millions of "normal" and "famous" people of all social classes over centuries and has been linked to many scandals. Moreover, the perception of STDs has turned from a "personal stroke of fate" into a collectively important issue of public health.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • History, 15th Century
  • History, 16th Century
  • History, 17th Century
  • History, 18th Century
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, Ancient
  • History, Medieval
  • Humans
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / history*