Hester is a HIV/STI surveillance and prevention scientist with a particular interest in syphilis. She developed a interest in both acquired and congenital syphilis though previously studying paleo-epidemiology and the history of medicine at during an MSc in Bioarchaeological and Forensic Anthropology at UCL and then went on to focus on STIs from a more modest stand point through studying Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
Syphilis is a disease with many negative social connotations and it has a long and complicated history. Syphilis is caused by the bacteria Treponema pallidum and is most commonly transmitted through sexual contact (Romanowski,1999). Therefore, due to its nature of transmission, there has been a large amount of stigma surrounding this disease throughout its history.
In Europe and America, syphilis developed parallel to the process of urbanisation and was linked to increases in promiscuity and prostitution that accompanied the development of densely populated areas (Wood,1978). In parts of the developed world during the 19th and 20th centuries, syphilis was more than just a disease, it developed into a social phenomenon which extended far beyond the field of health alone. The negative societal attitudes towards the disease significantly impacted the treatments used and consequently, exercised a great influence on the prevalence during this period (Quétel,1990).
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