Whoa. These posters produced by the WPA in the 1930’s are really getting the message across. Made by government-employed artists to promote the seriousness of treating syphilis, the posters reflect an urgency that antibiotics have largely assuaged in developed countries. The Library of congress has a trove of posters created by the Work Projects Administration that promote everything from treating STIs to free summer art clases for high school students.
There’s something about the syphilis posters though that are still compelling today. There’s been a recent rise in syphilis among gay men, who account for 72 percent of new diagnoses, and the fact that the bacterium can also increase the likelihood of contracting HIV. This is serious not only among men who have sex with men in the US and Europe, but also in areas of the world without a robust healthcare systems. The progression of the disease is devastating if untreated and can easily pass from mother to child during pregnancy. So while we can see these posters as a kind of stylish and vintage hysteria, they still speak loudly and honestly to many in the world.