Syphilis in China: the great comeback

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Hesketh, T ; Ye, XJ ; Zhu, WX (2011)

China is currently witnessing a major resurgence of syphilis from the elimination of the disease in the 1960s to 5.3 per 100,000 people incidence in 2000–2005. The reasons for the elimination and subsequent resurgence of syphilis in China lie at the heart of much public health debate, highlighting both the relationship between politics and public health, and the role of government in controlling disease. Were the Draconian measures to control syphilis during the early Mao years a price worth paying for the effective control? Is the recent resurgence of syphilis an inevitable consequence of economic development and greater freedom for the individual, which will ultimately lead to better health for the majority of the population? Could tougher control measures such as those of the early Mao years be re-introduced in the current social and economic climate in China? In this review, we briefly chart the history of the syphilis epidemic in China, its elimination in the 1960s, and its gradual resurgence in the past two decades. We explore the reasons for this resurgence, and we conclude with a discussion on the options for control. (Published: 20 June 2008) Citation: Emerging Health Threats Journal 2008, 1:e6. doi: 10.3134/ehtj.08.006
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