In these circumstances the Committee feel it their duty, before making known their recommendations, to state in as plain terms as possible the medical aspects of the problem they have had to consider.
There are three forms of venereal diseases namely, syphilis, gonorrhoea, and chancroid—and of these the first two are the common and most serious diseases. That sporadic syphilis existed in antiquity and even in prehistoric times is probable, but there is no doubt that the disease was a malignant European pandemic in the closing years of the fifteenth century. The first reference to its origin is in a work written about the year 1510, wherein it is described as a new affection in Barcelona, unheard of until brought from Hayti by the sailors of Columbus in 1493. The army of Charles viii carried the scourge through Italy, and soon Europe was aflame. “Its enormous prevalence in modern times,” says Dr. Creighton, “dates, without doubt, from the European libertinism of the latter part of the fifteenth century.” Gonorrhoea also has its origin in the shades of antiquity, but that it became common in Europe about 1520 is a fact based on the highest authority.
Syphilization follows civilization, and syphilis is an important factor in the extermination of aboriginal races. Syphilis was introduced into Uganda when that country was opened to trade with the coast, and Colonel Lambkin reported that “In some districts 90 per cent. suffer from it.... Owing to the presence of syphilis the entire population stands a good chance of being exterminated in a very few years, or left a degenerate race fit for nothing.” The earliest known account of the introduction of syphilis into the Maori race is in an old Maori song composed in the far North. The Maori population in a village on the shores of Tom Bowline’s Bay was employed in a whaling-station on the Three Kings Islands, and there they became infected and carried the disease to the mainland. Venereal disease is not common now among the Maoris, but it made great ravages in the early days of colonization, to which may be attributed much of the sterility and repeated miscarriages in the transitional period of Maori history.
Through the ages great confusion existed as to the origin and nature of venereal disease, but in 1905 a micro-organism, the Spironema pallidum, was demonstrated as the infective agent in syphilis, and the gonococcus as the infecting organism of gonorrhoea had been discovered in 1879. As regards modes of infection, syphilis is contracted usually by sexual congress; occasionally the mode of infection is accidental and innocent, and congenital transmission is not uncommon. Gonorrhoea is contracted by sexual congress as a rule, but occasionally from innocent contact with discharges, as in lavatories.