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1917: responding to the challenge posed by venereal disease
  1. Ian Simms,
  2. Gwenda Hughes
  1. Department of HIV and STIs, National Infection Service, Public Health England, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Ian Simms, Centre for Infectious Disease Surveillance and Control, Public Health England, London NW9 5EQ, UK; Ian.Simms{at}

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After asking 80 experts 22 296 questions over 64 days and distilling the findings into 758 pages and 30 appendices, the Royal Commission on Venereal Diseases (1916) provided an exhaustive insight into the grip that syphilis and gonorrhoea had on UK society.1 Recruiting healthy young men for the many conflicts of the early 20th century had highlighted the poor state of the nation’s health but, as WWI dragged on, high morbidity due to syphilis and gonorrhoea became a significant operational issue for the military. The government accepted the Royal Commission’s conclusion that only …

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  • Handling editor Jackie A Cassell

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.