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August 17, 1964

Syphilis and Homosexuality in a Mental Hospital

JAMA. 1964;189(7):587-588. doi:10.1001/jama.1964.03070070059026

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To the Editor:—  Dr. W. A. Ketterer's Special Communication on venereal disease and homosexuality (JAMA188:811 [June 1] 1964) brought to mind an epidemic of primary and secondary syphilis among male patients in a chronic ward of a European mental hospital which I observed in 1940. The central figure in the homosexual activities was a teenage boy suffering from Gilles de la Tourette's disease. This is a rare neuropsychiatric syndrome ( also called tic de guinon, maladie des tics impulsifs, myospasia impulsiva, or multiple tics with coprolalia), consisting of spasms of the muscles of the face, neck, and extremities, associated with incomprehensible sounds and obscene utterances. Because of overcrowding, homosexual activities were not easily detected and cut off, and the infection spread to a considerable number of patients. This incident may be of some interest in that it draws attention to the occurrence of homosexual activities in crowded mental hospital

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