Tag Archives: famous people with STDs

If Only They’d Had Access to STD Testing: Historical Figures Afflicted with STDs

While knowledge and awareness about sexually transmitted diseases have come a long way, there’s still work to do in regard to blasting through stereotypes, educating people, and normalizing STD testing.

Granted, the scene today has nothing on past decades and centuries, when people took such extreme measures as dosing themselves with arsenic and mercury (which are now known poisons) to rid themselves of STDs. On top of this, sex itself was an incredibly taboo topic, even though gonorrhea and syphilis were widespread and rampant.

Just take a look at some of the most famous faces in history who have had (or who reportedly had, according to rumor and hearsay) STDs. Flipping through a list of these famous names is a great reminder that absolutely no one is immune – STDs do not infect only certain people; an STD can happen to anyone, whether they’re famous or obscure, rich or poor.

Proof That STDS Can Happen to Anyone, Not Just Plano, TX, Residents

Abraham Lincoln

This is a surprising name to start with, but it’s true: one of the U.S.’s most revered presidents may have been infected with syphilis when he was a young steamboat navigator. According to First to Know, Lincoln confided to his friend and law partner that he might have contracted syphilis in the 1830s. He also took mercury pills regularly, a common “cure” in those days.

Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus and his crew famously have been charged with bringing syphilis back to Europe from the New World. While it’s true that Columbus did indeed suffer from syphilis, the long-held allegation that the explorer helped spread an STD throughout the globe has largely been debunked.

According to the Daily Mail, in 2014, a skeleton was found that helped prove that syphilis had been around since Roman times – not since a few years after Columbus returned to Europe, which was its first recorded instance.

William Shakespeare

Of course, no one can know for sure, but many people have theorized that the Bard himself may have suffered from syphilis. The ailment features in a lot of his works, including descriptions of its symptoms. On top of this, in Shakespeare’s later writings, his handwriting betrays a marked tremor.

According to PBS, a tremor is a side-effect of dosing oneself with mercury, and Shakespeare is known to have had mercury treatments, though it is not known why. He is also known to have been infamously promiscuous. This leads many to believe that he had the STD himself.


Beethoven’s physician is the one who recorded that the great composer had syphilis. One of his friends, a cellist, also has been recorded as saying that Beethoven was associated with prostitutes. According to the New York Times, Beethoven’s eventual deafness may have been a result of his STD.

Henry VIII

It should surprise no one that Henry VIII, one of England’s most well-known monarchs, had an STD. He was infamous for his dalliances, not to mention his six wives. According to many scholars, the circumstances of his death, which were enveloped in insanity and paranoia, were probably due to syphilis.

Leo Tolstoy

Among famous people with STDs, there is one of the greats of Russian literature, Leo Tolstoy. Supposedly he caught syphilis in his younger days, and he attempted to treat it with arsenic.

Other Famous Names from History

Other famous people from times past who had syphilis include notorious gangster Al Capone, starry-eyed impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh, 19th-century literary bad-boy Oscar Wilde, philosopher and scholar Friedrich Nietzsche, ruthless German WWII leader Adolph Hitler, and France’s 18th-century emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte.

Why Syphilis?

One common thread tying all of these names together is that all of them had (or reportedly had) syphilis. Syphilis was rampant before any effective treatment was available, long before the advent of penicillin. Little was known about how it or any other STD was spread, which, ironically, helped it to do so.

Many people also suffered from congenital syphilis, which is syphilis that is passed from an afflicted mother to her unborn child in the womb. Since syphilis could not be treated, it often ended in disfigurement, blindness, deafness, pain in the joints, sores all over the body, insanity, manic episodes, and, eventually, death.

Famous People with STDs Prove No One is Immune

It might be jarring to realize, but STDs can infect absolutely anyone. If even Abraham Lincoln isn’t immune, or literary greats like William Shakespeare or Leo Tolstoy, then it’s pretty apparent that sexually transmitted diseases don’t discriminate by status, age, wealth, intelligence, or any other factor – especially since some of the most powerful and influential men in history can get it.

This is just another reason to take precautions, to get STD tests, and to come to terms with the fact that being laissez-faire about sexual health and safe sex can lead to more serious health problems. Many people contract an STD because they aren’t being careful, and just one instance of neglect can lead to a lot of shame and suffering.

Prevent STDs with STD Testing

Luckily, there are lots of ways to prevent sexually transmitted diseases, and it doesn’t take a lot of effort. People should get STD testing in Frisco, TX, whether or not they are sexually active, and always before choosing to be intimate with someone new. They should additionally use protection and, if they suspect they have an STD, they should get tested right away so they can get treated quickly.

Famous people with STDs show just how rampant these infections can be, and nobody is immune. People should take care of themselves (and their partners) by taking care of their sexual health.