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War Surgery and Medicine

Position in Syria

Position in Syria

In Syria venereal disease was rife among the civilian population, and in March 1942 the ADMS 2 NZ Division decided to establish controlled brothels. Two were opened in Aleppo and two in Baalbek, with PA Treatment Centres being established by 6 and 4 NZ Field Ambulances respectively. Prostitutes were examined weekly by New Zealand medical officers. Field ambulances cooperated with DAPM NZ Division in the questioning of patients regarding the source of infection and the tracking down of infected prostitutes. In two brigades in Syria in four weeks there were only 5 cases of venereal disease. In April there were 9 cases (mostly from ‘secret prostitutes’ in Damascus and Beirut), in May 8 cases and in June 4 cases.

In Syria the rigid supervision of brothels, examination of prostitutes, and encouraged use of PA Centres had most satisfactory results. In Baalbek in May 4 Field Ambulance gave approximately 850 prophylactic treatments weekly, while 5 Field Ambulance (replacing 6 Field Ambulance) gave approximately 1400 such treatments weekly. Although the latter serviced only one brigade group, its numbers also included RAF and British troops.

It is evident that the troops had not limited their sexual intercourse to any great degree, but the period in Syria was an example of what could be achieved by adequate control of sources of infection and the taking of reasonable precautions by way of prophylaxis by those concerned.