Historical figures with STIs
Contrary to popular belief, sexually transmitted infections are not a new nuisance. People of the past have battled with problems with their privates for many centuries. It is generally thought that such diseases were brought back by Columbus’ crew in the 15th century and in the next 300 years, an estimated 15% of the global population was said to infected with syphilis.
Here are some surprising famous historical figures who all had a sexually transmitted infection:
- Henry VIII
This one is no surprise as it is well known that the debauched king ended up wracked with syphilis. Being the 16th century, little could be done to help his condition aside from prayer and leeches! Sadly, Henry most likely passed the infection onto to his children, particularly his only son and heir Edward VI who died young.
This one might surprise you until you consider that, as a musician, he was probably considered the rock star of his day. He had a reputation for partying and being a frequent visitor to prostitutes. Whilst debated ever since, Beethoven’s own doctor said he had syphilis, and this could have been what made him go deaf.
Napoleon famously died from arsenic poisoning. Back then, arsenic was bizarrely used to treat syphilis, so it is suspected that Napoleon had contracted the disease. Beethoven was treated with mercury which didn’t work either and probably just made life more uncomfortable.
- John F. Kennedy
This one shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise as we all know JFK was a bit of a player. One of the stories surrounding the smooth-moving president comes from British actor David Niven. He claimed his model wife at the time had a secret assignation with the president below decks at a boat party, from which she received more than she bargained for with the gift of an STD. Don’t be the one to pass on infections and get yourself tested. For STI testing London, visit checkurself.org.uk/plus/
- Abraham Lincoln
Many people will be surprised by this revelation that such a respected and honest man of high standing could have suffered with syphilis. The information came from the president’s friend and law partner, who claimed Lincoln had told him about contracting an infection from a lady in the 1830s. There is also evidence that Lincoln was taking mercury tablets, his wife died from syphilis and several children were lost in infancy due to the disease.
- Vincent Van Gogh
Whilst no certainty surrounds this diagnosis, it is thought Van Gogh could have been displaying some of the classic signs of a syphilis infection. He was known to frequent brothels where it is well documented he contracted gonorrhoea. The other sign is his deteriorating mental condition that resulted in a long stay in an asylum. Aside from these possible clues, we’ll never know as he committed suicide at the age of 37, before the worst symptoms would have become evident.