Has this growing STD epidemic reached your city?

By John Murphy, MDLinx
Published January 30, 2020

Key Takeaways

Cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) hit an all-time high in the United States in 2018, according to the most recent statistics from the CDC. This was the fifth consecutive year of STD increases, with chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis reaching a combined total of nearly 2.5 million cases. 

“Many cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis continue to go undiagnosed and unreported, and data on several other STDs, such as human papillomavirus and herpes simplex virus, are not routinely reported,” according to the CDC. “As a result, national surveillance data only captures a fraction of America’s STD epidemic.”

Moreover, the STD epidemic disproportionately affects certain populations. This disparity manifests in significantly higher rates of STDs in certain geographic areas and municipalities.

In fact, the highest rates of STDs occurred in some of the least populated states, according to an analysis of the CDC’s data by Innerbody.com, a company that produces online medical and wellness testing guides. Specifically, the states with the highest rates of STDs were: 

  1. Alaska (1,144 cases/100,000 people)

  2. Mississippi (1,082 cases/100,000 people)

  3. Louisiana (1,046 cases/100,000 people)

  4. South Carolina (957 cases/100,000 people)

  5. New Mexico (937 cases/100,000 people)

Cities with high STDs rates

According to Innerbody.com’s analysis, the five cities with the highest rates of STD cases (including syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea only) were: 

1. Baltimore, MD

Baltimore had the highest rate of STDs among US cities and towns in 2018, with 2,004 cases per 100,000 people. Ranked in sixth place in 2017, “Charm City” jumped up five spots to have the dubious rank of first place in 2018. 

2. Jackson, MS

The city with the second-highest rate of STDs, Jackson had 1,872 cases per 100,000 people in 2018. The town nicknamed “Chimneyville” shot up 13 spots from 15th place in 2017 to second place in 2018. 

3. Philadelphia, PA

The City of Brotherly Love was ranked as the town with the third-highest rate of STDs, with 1,822 cases per 100,000 people. 

4. San Francisco, CA

With the fourth-highest rate of STDs, the City by the Bay had 1,754 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in 2018. San Francisco rose 12 spots from 16th place in 2017 to fourth place in 2018. 

5. Montgomery, AL

Montgomery had the fifth-highest rate of STDs among all municipalities in the United States, with 1,731 cases per 100,000 people.

Other notable findings from the CDC’s report: 

  • Chlamydia is the most commonly reported notifiable disease in the United States. Gonorrhea is the second most common one.

  • The city with the highest rate of gonorrhea was Washington DC, with 611 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. Compare that with the national average of 179 cases per 100,000 population.

  • Of the 10 states with the highest rates of STDs, 7 are in the South: Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Arkansas, and Missouri. 

  • Rates of adult syphilis (primary and secondary) affected Western states more intensely than others. States with the highest rates of syphilis were Nevada, California, Mississippi, Georgia, and Arizona.

  • Cases of congenital syphilis increased 40% nationwide from 2017 to 2018—from 24 to 33 cases per 100,000 live births. More than 1,300 cases of congenital syphilis were reported in 2018.

  • The rate of reported cases of chlamydia in women was nearly double that of men in 2018. However, the rate in men increased 37.8% between 2014 and 2018 while the rate in women increased only 11.4% during that period. “Potential reasons for this considerable increase in male cases could be due to a true increase in infections or to improved screening coverage in males, especially increased extragenital screening in [men who have sex with men], or both,” according to the CDC. 

No surprise, no funding

For people on the front lines of the STD epidemic, the high numbers of cases aren’t exactly news.

“It doesn’t surprise me because our rates have been high for some time,” Gary Bell, executive director of a Philadelphia-based sexual health organization, told The Philadelphia Tribune.

“We’ve had federal cuts in funding to address sexually transmitted diseases. It isn’t as if the issue has gotten easier or smaller, yet we have fewer resources to address it,” Bell said.

To see the ranking for all 100 US cities with the highest rates of STDs, view Innerbody’s report

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