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The following program was produced by a group w o the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company and is distributed to educational stations by the National Education or radio network. The program you're about to hear may be unpleasant to some it may be embarrassing to all. It will be important. It's not a program designed for adults only. Even though words will be used that are not often heard on Family Radio. It's not a program designed to be sensational. Even though some of the activities we all like to keep secret will be discussed quite openly. This will be done because we'll be dealing in an area where silence can kill where ignorance can blind and false modesty can literally lead to insanity. Venereal disease is important to you and your family. It has not been wiped out. On the contrary it's a growing problem especially with teenagers. My name is William F. Schwartz I am the educational consultant for the venereal disease
branch of the United States Public Health Service. The people of the United States have never felt the venereal diseases anything which concerns them very much. They have unfortunately the attitude that syphilis is something which Nice people don't get and shouldn't do anything about and shouldn't even talk about. A lot of people believe that if you have an Ariel disease you somehow deserve it. And this is in spite of the fact that literally thousands of cases are contracted in ways that are entirely morally legally and socially acceptable. This attitude has been very strongly excoriated and condemned by Father Francis L. fireless who is head of the department of theology at Loyola University says this is the most heartless and bigoted interpretation of biblical doctrine that anyone could possibly imagine. And he points out that not only are innocent wives and husbands
and babies and so forth infected with this disease but. He classes among the innocent day teenagers who are influenced by the sex culture of our modern times and who are simply doing what comes naturally and not knowing any better. We have to start educating kids in school at an early age. This is another of the few dedicated men who are fighting VD. Dr. Sidney R. Lansky Fessor medicine dermatology Emory University School of Medicine there are a great many people who feel that promiscuity is alright but getting a venereal disease is not. They dissociate the two. Actually it's the act that produces the disease it's just that some people are less fortunate than others in acquiring this. One would think that in this present society the moral attitude would have very little influence if we can believe the things we read about and hear about. But.
Many many people consider that getting a venereal disease as a bad thing and not the act by which they acquired it. For example I had a patient who was not married and who was pregnant but also had syphilis. I asked what her father would think about this. She said Well don't tell him about my surface. He won't mind my being pregnant in an effort to break down the wall of silence that is helping venereal disease flourish and to assist in our government's program of eradicating syphilis and perhaps even gonorrhea Group W Westinghouse Broadcasting Company in cooperation with the Columbia University School of Public Health and administrative medicine and with the American Social Health Association is bringing you a series of reports on the venereal disease. Your reporter Walter McGraw. In Chicago Tom Thibodeau is director of venereal disease information and education for the Board of Health. A couple of years ago I was going on I was talking to a teen age group and I was discussing syphilis
and gonorrhea and I thought I'd been very exact in using layman terms and upon closing the program we had a little time left over for a question answered and a boy stands up and he said Why it's fine. I know all about these two diseases. But what about the clap. And this of course was a popular site term for gonorrhea. I thought I was communicating assuming that my audience knew about seven gonorrhea which is not the case. They had never heard of syphilis and gonorrhea Have they heard about the clap. It will be the purpose of these reports to communicate. So let it be clear that what we're talking about are variously called the whites. So if the pox and bad blood and let it also be clear that these reports are addressed not to those other people but to us who gets venereal disease again Dr. Alinsky as we analyze a statistics the increase seems to be in the very young and in the middle class.
It's no longer a disease of the lower socio economic groups. It's everywhere and also where we have reason to believe that there's been a lot of upper crust involved in this both from the point of view of infection and perhaps homosexuality. People who engage in unusual sexual habits are unusual sexual games are probably more apt to get it because by the very nature of the way they behave they are less apt to be aware of their partner being infected. For example in the homosexual you don't have as many signs and symptoms that are on the surface perhaps. Whereas if it were in the natural of the usual custom you would know that lesions were there in many instances which would be unrecognizable they may be hidden. The story of VD is filled with many ironies. One of these is that for many years the medical profession refused to believe that syphilis and gonorrhea were not just
one disease. However they are different diseases and you can contract one or the other or both. What are they like. Well here is Dr. James Lucas assistant to the Chief for the venereal disease branch of the communicable disease center in Atlanta. Gonorrhea is usually a localized disease of the genital track. It affects both males and females. It's caused by a small germ. We call the NIE Syria gonorrhea II and once it enters the body it causes various sorts of inflammation which leads to usually a period on discharge. How would one know one and this in males. Usually there is a profuse period lint or pus a discharge. He may have symptoms like urgency and he may have some pain on urination. Women on the other hand the disease is often asymptomatic that is they may have no symptoms whatsoever. On
occasion however women may have discomfort in the pelvic area or they may have a discharge which may be quite profuse in some cases. If nothing is done about these things what happens then. In males the disease frequently can lead to sterility and painful complications. It may enter the bloodstream and patients may develop arthritis which is quite a painful and crippling disease or an even rarer instances why it may invade the heart itself or some other vital organs. Can it be fatal. It can be but it is unusual for Dawna Riya unlike syphilis over how many years can this have an effect with Gone orea the disease is usually acute and the symptoms of particularly in males are such that the patient will seek medical treatment. Of course if a person does have complications that lead Francis to sterility why this is of course a permanent thing. You say there's quite a bit of pain as far as a man is
concerned. Will this pain just go away if nothing is done after an indeterminate length of time and then this may be weeks or many months. Other patients symptoms will usually gradually become less providing he doesn't develop one or more of the complications of the disease or hello. Would a person be infectious to others will go on a real patient is probably infectious for as long as he has any sort of. Symptoms and perhaps even beyond this point so an untreated gonorrhea the patient may be infectious for many many months. Let's switch over to simplest know how does this differ from going to real. Syphilis is a more systemic disease. Once the trepanning enters the body usually through the skin the organisms will multiply and spread through the bloodstream and enter all organs of the body. Does it have to be a wound or cut of some good. No it's probable that the organism which is a spiral keyed a long corkscrew shaped organism can penetrate normal skin and we
know that it also enters through the mucus membranes which are a little thinner than the skin itself can also be contracted through the mouth good. This is correct only here are the terms primary secondary latent late. How would you break down in these terms. Syphilis is a continuum. It is a spectrum of disease. Early in the disease shortly after the organism is entered the body in a matter of weeks the patient will develop a small sore at the site where the organism entered the body and this is called a shank or even without treatment. The Shanker will spontaneously disappear. How would one recognize the Shakers against a cold sore. This may be quite difficult and the only way of positively identifying as Shanker is to examine some of the C creation from it under a microscope. This is called a darkfield examination and one can see this by Keats.
All right let's go on with this primary. We have the shaker and though it disappears after a variable period of time perhaps a month or perhaps six weeks the shanker will disappear by itself only to be followed again after a brief interval by more generalized symptoms and these are usually in the nature of skin rashes which may appear on any part of the body. If the scalp was affected the hair maybe lost the eyebrows maybe lost the lesions can appear on any of the body surfaces the palms and the soles of the feet are on the trunk or chest. Now is there any way of telling whether this rash is an ordinary kind of rash or a simplistic rush. Not absolutely by just clinically looking at the patient. One usually has to resort to blood tests for syphilis. But if nothing is done about the rush that too goes away. Right. That is correct. After a few weeks the race will disappear just like the shanker disappeared. And then we enter the stage of the disease that we call latency.
Here there are no signs or symptoms of the disease the patient has no right she has no sores on his body. He has no fever. He feels fine. He's totally unaware that he is harboring the organism. Is he infectious at this point. No. In general patients are not infectious unless they have active skin lesions which will allow transmission to another person. So how long is a patient infectious really from three to six months. Now there is one exception in Elaine say as far as transmission of the disease goes in this is in females who become pregnant and the disease in latency can be transmitted by the mother to the unborn child. Is that a latent form of the disease that's transferred. No. Often when the child is born he will display florid manifestations of disease. If the child is born alive and not infrequently the child will be lost due to the infection. What else can happen to the job. There may be permanent changes in the teeth on the bones
and other organs of the child he may develop blindness and he may develop deafness or he may develop syphilitic insanity just as adults might be going on from late and too late. What happens after the latent period which is highly variable and may actually last from a few years to many many years perhaps 20 or even 30 in some cases. The organisms seem to find a renewed vitality and actual organ destruction takes place and the two most serious types of late disease involve the heart which may lead to syphilitic heart disease and heart failure eventual death of the patient and the late disease it is associated with the nervous system which might lead to insanity blindness or paralysis. And of course death and this can kill music as much as 30 years later. That's right. They can be detected by the use of blood tests and the patient can still yet be treated and prevent these late manifestations which cripple
or kill. How can you prevent going to real or syphilis. There are no vaccines that are capable of preventing either syphilis arc honoraria. These diseases are transmitted almost entirely by sexual intercourse. So I think that one has to be selective so to speak in their sexual partners and use precautions where they are available. You're the term prophylaxis What does that mean. Profile access in this case to agree or to any steps that a person might take to prevent the development of an Ariel disease. And this would be treatment administered by a private physician or by a health department to a person who has been exposed to a known case of syphilis are gone whether they know if this person has it or no. Right. They know that the patient has been exposed to somebody who has it and therefore the wisest thing to do is to not wait until signs and symptoms actually develop. But to go ahead and treat the patient with a curative dose on the assumption that he would
develop symptoms if he was allowed to go his own way. Are there any things that the average person can do or seeing is an excellent means of preventing both diseases but of course it's not foolproof. There is no method that is foolproof for the prevention of these diseases. Other than abstention from permissiveness intercourse. You said there were other types of venereal disease what are these. Well there's less of a granuloma of a Nerium granuloma angle Nally and shank right. I'm glad you've hit upon it. These are what are called minor of an Ariel diseases. The number of people who contract them each year is relatively small. Perhaps a few thousand cases per year. What happens with these diseases. Maybe it will do all in. Indeed some of them can I would you know if you had one of these. In general the symptoms might be somewhat similar to those seen in early syphilis. They are usually marked by a sore in the genital area.
And what does the doctor do once he discovers that you do have one of these diseases. Penicillin is still the primary therapy for both garri and syphilis. All of the forms of penicillin used are differing in the two diseases. And most patients can be quite rapidly easily and safely cured along as a stick virtually Cephalus may involve as little as a single injection of long acting penicillin in the later stages of the disease more penicillin is required and the course of therapy may require several weeks penicillin is usually very effective and gone area and usually one visit to the physician is ample. What if one has problems to penicillin. Well there are many other good broad spectrum antibiotics which are quite capable of producing cures. What about the diseases themselves are they becoming immune to penicillin. There is no evidence that the organism that causes syphilis is becoming
immune to penicillin. The reverse situation has occurred with the Gonna caucus. The organism that cause is gone area and in many areas of the world and some areas of the United States. A great percentage of these organisms show definite resistance to penicillin therapy. Now this is necessitated our recommending the use of larger doses of penicillin than formerly in the treatment of gonorrhea. This is not been necessary with syphilis howre as not the prediction been made however that eventually syphilis will become immune to the risk. Yes and it is based on. Sound bacteriological thanking but as yet this has not appeared and it is not a problem. Getting back to this resistant strain who got to Rio where did this come from were the children of. This is a little bit hard to say but it apparently first showed up in the western parts of the United States. And probably it was imported from the Far East. Korea Japan perhaps some of the other
areas of Philippines since they have been having problems with resistant GC for some years before they were apparent here. How many times can you catch going to rience of both diseases can be contract did more than once particularly gonorrhea. Because it seems to be a disease it produces no natural immunity can be contract and many times in syphilis on the other hand there is a natural immunity that develops but it develops very slowly and therefore if a person is treated early and Cephalus he does not go on to develop a good solid natural immunity and he can become re-infected on re exposure and weve seen a number of patients who been infected three and four times with primary syphilis more about VD in just a moment. Throughout the centuries VD has been the subject of much misinformation and many myths. The most dangerous of these is that now we don't have to worry about
VD that with the advent of penicillin VD is no longer important. This is not true. It is true that penicillin as we just heard usually cures VD easily and quickly but it cannot cure untreated cases. And we really don't know how many of these there may be. Because death certificates usually don't distinguish between syphilitic heart failure and heart failures from other causes. We don't even know how many people are killed by syphilis. All we really know is the number of cases that are reported by doctors to health authorities. Here is Conrad van whining who recently retired as executive director of the American Social Health Association. This year we've had a slight downward trend in primary and secondary syphilis three and three tenths percent. But American Medical Association Public Health Service and other authorities still estimate about 100000 cases of primary and secondary syphilis occurring each year in the United States and about
a million and a half cases of gonorrhea. The major problem was the wide gap between the number of cases treated by private physicians and the number of cases they report. Yes I'm going to ask you when you toss out those figures are you talking about reported cases or actual cases reported and undetected. The actual cases reported in the last year were about 23000 BNSF less than actual cases of gonorrhea around three hundred thirty five thousand. Now the ratio of treated to reported is approximately four to one are people at the other way. My one case in every four or five is reported so that the size of the problem. All authorities agree is anywhere from four to five times the number of reported cases. It is conservatively estimated that VD in dollars and cents is costing us well over one hundred million dollars per year. Again Williams wants all taxpayers are paying the costs of venereal
disease infection for example. About 800000 people in this country today need treatment for syphilis and don't know it. Most of them don't even suspect there's anything wrong with them at the present time. And if they're not treated how about 1 out of 40 of these will develop syphilitic insanity and the syphilitic insane in tax supported mental institutions today just the tax supported institutions alone are costing taxpayers 50 million dollars every year. We can cure the people who have the syphilitic insanity but we can't repair the damage to their brains and consequently they live on and on and on for between 10 and 15 years where 1 in 200 who are not treated will develop syphilitic blindness and this is costing taxpayers right now of 5 million dollars a year. It's sort of strange that we're paying twice as much to maintain the syphilitic insane tax supported mental institutions as we are paying
at all levels federal state and local for the control of all that it was a success. You know each and every year. That's correct. Most people have never become accustomed to the idea that syphilis is an emergency. Simplest to state in basic terms. Jess does not enjoy what I would call a status of in tolerability. And to explain that a little bit I might say that if a case of smallpox or bubonic plague shows up in an area it's immediately an epidemic and it makes newspaper headlines from coast to coast and perhaps even internationally. And all stops are poor and every effort is thrown into the program to re eradicate this disease as rapidly as possible. Even on the strength of a single case because not a single case is allowable in an area it strikes fear into the hearts of people and yet here it is syphilis which is possibly contributing to as many as a thousand deaths per month. And if you would ask
one of these same health authorities how much syphilis do you have here I think their answer might very likely be. Well we have 100 to 200 or 600 cases a year but not really enough to get alarmed about for some reason people do not insist on the eradication of syphilis because they do not identify with it. They think that this is it is a which strikes other people but it would never strike them. And most unfortunately it does strike so many of these people and if not these adult citizens it strikes many of their children and they realize only too late that they've been led down a primrose path of apathy. As one VD men put it to to Stix our figures with the tears wiped off. There is no estimating the physical pain and mental anguish caused by venereal diseases. This is
The V.D. epidemic
The V.D. problem
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Westinghouse Broadcasting Company
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program features William Schwartz and Dr. Sidney Olansky of the United States Communicable Disease Center; Tom Thiebaut of the Chicago Dept. of Health; and Dr. James Lucas.
Series Description
A series about a venereal disease epidemic in the 1960s, especially among teenagers.
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Host: McGraw, Walter
Interviewee: Schwartz, William
Interviewee: Olansky, Sidney, 1914-
Interviewee: Thiebaut, Thomas
Interviewee: Lucas, James
Producing Organization: Westinghouse Broadcasting Company
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 67-40-1 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:24:24
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Chicago: “The V.D. epidemic; The V.D. problem,” 1967-08-18, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed January 27, 2023,
MLA: “The V.D. epidemic; The V.D. problem.” 1967-08-18. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. January 27, 2023. <>.
APA: The V.D. epidemic; The V.D. problem. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from