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The impact of penicillin on sexual healthcare delivery systems in mid-20th century Britain
  1. Adam Gilbertson1,2,3,
  2. Adriane Gelpi1,2,
  3. Joseph D Tucker1,4
  1. 1 Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
  2. 2 Social Medicine Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
  3. 3 School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  4. 4 International Diagnostics Centre, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Joseph D Tucker, International Diagnostics Centre, Keppel Street, WCE1, London, UK; joseph.tucker{at}

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Penicillin's introduction in 1943 as a simple, inexpensive cure for syphilis had notable influences on venereology and broader sexual healthcare systems. Foremost among these was the perception that venereal disease (VD) no longer posed a threat and therefore merited fewer resources for control. As the chairman of a regional hospital board replied, when asked about reconstructing a VD clinic in 1958: “We don't want to spend money on these dying diseases”.1 While venereology had developed as a specialty in part because of Salvarsan, general practitioners could easily provide penicillin to patients. Thus, penicillin's success left some venereologists reflecting that they …

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