BMJ 1998; 317 doi: (Published 12 December 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;317:1666
  1. Douglas Carnall (dcarnall{at} is said that the businesses really making money from the internet involve sex, and also that answering questions about health is one of the commonest applications for general use. The intersection of sex and health means that relevant information about syphilis should not be hard to find. Omni is always a good starting point (, despite its URL being disturbingly free of “www.” Omni's descriptions of each site beside the hypertext link make choices easier and more sensible. A US consumer equivalent is Healthfinder (, which in many ways is better, as there is even less choice but what there is proves excellent.

    Summary epidemiological data about syphilis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest that the incidence of the disease in the West continues to fall (see news), but this is not universal. The Centre for Epidemiological Research in Southern Africa, which publishes its work as eprints on the web as well as in journals, reports that in some antenatal clinics the prevalence of maternal syphilis is 9% (

    Patients prefer virtual consultations for intimate or embarrassing problems, which is all very well for psychiatry, but the diagnosis of syphilis remains a physical matter, with its chancre scraping, rash observing, and blood testing.

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