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Condom handouts, discounted flu shots, and free HIV testing reflect a progressive awareness of the universality of disease, but a new exhibit at the National Academy of Sciences reminds us that misogyny played a prevalent role in early public service announcements. “An Iconography of Contagion” features 21 public-health posters from around the world that reflect dramatic and sexist attempts at curbing risky behavior. One poster features several servicemen looking at the image of an iconic ’40s-era woman and underneath her image, “She may look clean—but pick-ups, ‘good time’ girls, and prostitutes spread syphilis and Gonorrhea.” Another poster, depicting a dark-haired woman smoking a cigarette and sporting a red beret, comes with the warning: “She may be…a bag of trouble. Syphilis-gonorrhea.” Compared to what we know about men’s complicity in sexually transmitted infections—“Iconography” is an especially painful and, in some cultures­, recurring, footnote in the field of public health.

THE EXHIBIT RUNS WEEKDAYS FROM 9 A.M. TO 5 P.M. TO DEC. 19 AT THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES, 2100 C ST. NW. FREE. (202) 334-2436.