Sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs, are relatively common infections transmitted through sexual contact, such as sexual intercourse, caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites. STDs can be spread through vaginal, anal, or oral sex, and those are infected can have no symptoms.
Because STDs can show no symptoms and can lead to serious health problems if untreated, getting tested for STDs is important and, luckily, easy to do. Most STDs are easy to treat as well.
In the United States, the most common STD is HPV (human papillomavirus), affecting over 79 million Americans, most teens and young adults. While HPV is usually harmless and can go away on its own, it can sometimes lead to cancer. Other common types of STDs in the U.S. are chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. All three of these STDs are bacterial infections that are easily treatable.
Other types of STDs include genital warts, Hepatitis B, herpes, HIV/AIDS, scabies, pubic lice, molluscum contagiosum, and trichomoniasis (“trich”).
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates 20 million new STD infections every year. Despite vast and numerous resources and information on STDs, and easy access to condoms and STD testing, STDs continue to rise in the U.S.
STD rates vary between states. This can be caused by variations in the availability or use of contraception (condoms), the presence or lack of sex education, and cultural norms regarding the use of condoms or getting tested.
States with the Highest Chlamydia Rates
Mississippi has the third-highest rate of chlamydia, the highest rate of gonorrhea, and the third-highest rate of syphilis in the United States. The rate per 100,000 people for each of these STDs is 740.1, 326.7, and 15.5, respectively. State health officials say that Mississippi’s diluted health structure is the main factor in the high rates of STDs, decreasing residents’ access to care.
Alaska has the highest rate of chlamydia in the U.S. According to the CDC’s 2018 Surveillance Report, there were 6,159 cases of chlamydia in Alaska in 2018. This is a rate of about 832.5 cases per 100,000 people. Alaska also has the second-highest rate of gonorrhea in the country of 303.7 cases per 100,000 people. Alaska has reportedly ranked first in the country for chlamydia since 2001 and gonorrhea is becoming an increasingly concerning issue. Health officials in Alaska believe the rate is so high because of a combination of unprotected sex and less access to health care services or resources for prevention.
Louisiana has the third-highest rate of chlamydia of 774.8 cases per 100,000 people. Louisiana also has the fifth-highest rate of gonorrhea of 257.1 cases per 100,000 people. Louisiana, however, has been making significant improvements in the number of gonorrhea cases, dropping from the third ranking in 2017 to the fifth in 2018. Additionally, Louisiana declined from third for syphilis to seventh. The state’s prevention efforts have been paying off for Louisiana as the state’s STD statistics are improving despite the increase across the United States.
4. South Carolina
South Carolina has the fourth-highest chlamydia rate and the third-highest gonorrhea rate in the U.S. South Carolina’s chlamydia rate is 674.9 cases per 100,000 people and its gonorrhea rate is 274.7 cases per 100,000 people. Of South Carolina approximately 5 million residents, 48,095 STD cases were reported in 2018. Columbia has one of the highest rates of STDs of any city in the United States.
5. New Mexico
New Mexico has the fifth-highest rate of chlamydia, the sixth-highest rate of gonorrhea, and the sixth-highest rate of syphilis in the United States. The chlamydia rate in New Mexico is 670.5 cases per 100,000; the gonorrhea rate is 252.3 cases per 100,000, and the syphilis rate is 14.6 cases per 100,000 people.
States with Lowest STD Rates
Vermont overall has the lowest STD rates in the United States. Vermont’s chlamydia rate is 274.5 cases per 100,000, the second-lowest in the country. Vermont’s gonorrhea and syphilis rates are the lowest in the country at 43 cases per 100,000 people and 1.8 cases per 100,000 people, respectively. Health officials in Vermont have expressed concerns, however, as Vermont is seeing an increase in STDs in recent years, following the nationwide trend.
2. West Virginia
West Virginia has the lowest rate of chlamydia in the United States of 198.2 cases per 100,000 people. West Virginia also has the fifth-lowest gonorrhea rate of 62.9 cases per 100,000 people and the seventh-lowest syphilis rate of 3.6 cases per 100,000. Like many other states, West Virginia has also seen a rise in the number of cases, and STDs should still be a cause for concern, especially amongst young people.
3. New Hampshire
New Hampshire, like its neighbor Vermont, has relatively low STD rates across the board. New Hampshire’s chlamydia is the third-lowest in the U.S. at 278.1 cases per 100,000 people. The gonorrhea rate is the second-lowest at 44.2 cases per 100,000. The syphilis rate is the 11th-lowest in the country. While rates still remain low, New Hampshire STD rates have increased significantly in recent years. For example, from 2015 to 2017 alone, the chlamydia rate in New Hampshire increased by 42.1%.
Like its neighbors Vermont and New Hampshire, Maine has relatively low rates for chlamydia and gonorrhea. Maine’s chlamydia rate is 325.2 cases per 100,000 people, the fourth-lowest in the U.S., and its gonorrhea rate is 53.1 cases per 100,000 people, the third-lowest. Maine’s numbers are moving in the wrong direction, however, with cases increasing year after year. The chlamydia rate rose 33% from 2012 to the present.
Wyoming has the sixth-lowest chlamydia rate, the fourth-lowest gonorrhea rate, and the eighth-lowest syphilis rate. Wyoming’s chlamydia rate is 374.4 cases per 100,000 people, its gonorrhea rate is 53.7 cases per 100,000, and its syphilis rate is 4 cases per 100,000. Wyoming is also following the nationwide trend in increasing STDs rates, with syphilis cases rising at an alarming rate. From 2017 to 2018, cases rose by 36% in Wyoming. Additionally, gonorrhea cases rose 529% from 2013 to 2018.