After WWI, venereal disease was rampant, and many countries began venereal disease campaigns with varied approaches and methods. The disparity in modes of attack prompted a global effort to standardize syphilis treatments. In 1928, the Health Organization of the League of Nations (currently World Health Organization) convened a Committee of Experts on Syphilis and Cognate Subjects and conducted an International Investigation involving five countries (Denmark, Great Britain, Germany, France, and the United States). The Committee compiled data from clinical studies. Virginia provided case records from the Study in the International Investigation because subjects were being treated in the University of Virginia Medical Center. The other five states in the Study were categorized as “field treatments.”
In 1929, prior to the League of Nations Committee standardizing a treatment method, the United States Public Health Service asked Julius Rosenwald to jointly fund a project dealing with syphilis in the black population in the rural South. The Rosenwald Fund accepted, and the demonstration/experiment became known as the Rosenwald Fund Study, precursor to the infamous Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male. The Study began as a pilot program in Mississippi at the Mississippi Delta and Pine Land Company and was later expanded to five additional states (Alabama, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia). Mercury and other heavy metals were used as treatment. Wassermann blood tests were used to diagnose syphilis and was prone to false positive results. Participants were misinformed about “bad blood”, were never informed they had syphilis, nor did they understand the harmful side-affects already attributed to the toxic chemicals. Instead, they were misled by what they believed to be free, government-sponsored medical care and were never educated about syphilis treatments for their “bad blood” symptoms.
When the Rosenwald Fund Study allegedly ended in 1932, the Federal Government salvaged the Macon, County Alabama Study and it became known as the infamous 40-year Tuskegee Syphilis Study. According to the Rosenwald Fund Archives, like Tuskegee, the state of Tennessee also salvaged/continued the family unit Study in Western Tennessee counties because of its distinct family unit nature. The Noel family is from Western Tennessee and to date nine family members have succumbed from symptoms linked to toxic heavy metal poisoning.
Chester Noel serving in WWI