Metro Weekly

Baltimore is city with highest STD rates, D.C. ranks in top 20

Study follows up on CDC report showing that gonorrhea, syphilis, and chlamydia infections reached an "all time high" in 2018

Neisseria gonorrhoeae Bacteria – Photo: NIAID.

A new study claims that Baltimore has the highest rate of sexually transmitted diseases in the United States and that D.C. ranks 17th overall.

The Innerbody study analyzes data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance Report on the number of reported STD cases across the United States.

Based on that list, researchers compiled a list of the top 100 cities with the highest STD rates, along with key trends, such as whether the STD infection rate is increasing in a particular city.

In 2018, there were more than 115,000 syphilis cases nationally, over 580,000 gonorrhea cases and more than 1.7 million cases of chlamydia — constituting an “all time high” and marking the fifth consecutive year that the number of cases increased, according a report by the CDC.  

The CDC attributes the rise in STDs, in part, to higher rates of drug use, poverty, stigma around testing, and unstable housing, all of which can hinder the ability of people to access treatment or prevention methods.

Other factors include decreased condom use among vulnerable groups, particularly among youth and gay and bisexual men, and cuts to STD programs at both the state and local level that forced clinics offering STD prevention and treatment services to close or cut their hours, lay off staff, and cut back on follow-up services, which are often instrumental in preventing future infections.

Unsurprisingly, given their (generally) high poverty rates, higher number of uninsured or under-insured individuals, and the lack of available resources, especially for those living in rural areas, cities in the American South generally have higher STD rates, with nearly half of the cities with the top 25 STD rates located in the South.

California had the most cities in the top 100, with seven overall, while Ohio and Texas each had six cities in the top 100.

In Baltimore, now ranked as the city with the highest STD rates (per every 100,000 people), there were 207 new cases of HIV infections reported in 2018, as well as 4,231 cases of gonorrhea, 7,636 cases of chlamydia, and 210 cases of syphilis. 

In D.C., which ranked 17th overall, reported 630 cases of new HIV infections, 6,803 cases of gonorrhea, 17,480 cases of chlamydia, and 426 cases of syphilis.

The top 20 cities with the highest STD rates are:

  1. Baltimore, Md.
  2. Jackson, Miss.
  3. Philadelphia, Pa.
  4. San Francisco, Calif.
  5. Montgomery, Ala.
  6. Augusta, Ga.
  7. Milwaukee, Wis.
  8. Killeen, Texas
  9. Shreveport, La.
  10. Indianapolis, Ind.
  11. Bronx, N.Y.
  12. Fayetteville, N.C.
  13. Manhattan, N.Y.
  14. Tallahassee, Fla.
  15. Columbus, Ga.
  16. Peoria, Ill.
  17. Washington, D.C.
  18. Columbia, S.C.
  19. Denver, Colo.
  20. Birmingham, Ala.


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