[Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]
October 22, 1982

Physicians and Sexually Transmitted Disease: A Call to Action

Author Affiliations

Department of Health and Human Services Washington, DC

JAMA. 1982;248(16):2032. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03330160080031

He who knows syphilis, knows medicine."

When Dr Osler coined this axiom early in the 20th century, he, no doubt, was trying to impress upon his colleagues and residents the importance of medical knowledge of this once formidable scourge (see also p 2020). In those days, syphilis was the unchallenged champion of venereal diseases. Today, old and new sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) occur with an even greater frequency and are represented by a broader range of clinical manifestations. Practitioners and residents well versed about these infections are an essential part of the front-line defense to combat the STD epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s. Herein are some thoughts about how we can work together to win this battle.

Historically, the availability of penicillin in the early 1950s led to the great medical advances in the 20th century. For the first time, physicians could safely cure infectious diseases, eg, syphilis, instead