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2024-04-24 22:03:29

Which States Have the Highest STD-Positive Test Results?

Every year, more than a million sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are acquired around the world. Startlingly, many of these people are asymptomatic, meaning they display no symptoms, making the spread of these diseases easier. 

Where in the United States are sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) occurring the most? In this blog, we’re focusing on the states that have the highest rates of sexually transmitted diseases and exploring why their rates might be higher than other states. We’ll also look at states with exceptionally low rates and how they’ve been able to achieve this.

Which States Have the Highest Rates of STDs?

In which US states are STDs the most prominent? Recent data lists these as the top 10: 

For every state, the results highlighted three STDs: Chlamydia was always the most prominent, followed by gonorrhea, and then syphilis. While syphilis might’ve been the least present, this is also the STD that’s seen the biggest increase in recent years. More specifically, between 2018 and 2022, syphilis cases in the United States increased by a whopping 80%.

Earlier research echoes similar findings, stating that in 2021, the top five states with the highest STD-positive test results were:

Why Do Some States Have Such Higher Rates of STDs?

Why are STDs a bigger problem in some states compared to others? What has landed Minnesota near the top of the list? Kris Ehresmann, Director of Infectious Disease for the Minnesota Department of Health, has some ideas.

One challenge is that with many sexually transmitted diseases, infected individuals don’t display symptoms right away. Thus, people are unaware that they’re infected and won’t seek treatment, potentially passing that disease on to others.

Another issue, she says, is that fewer people are using condoms because they aren’t as concerned about contracting STDs like HIV — which is far more treatable than it used to be. (Sure enough, some data says that between 2011 and 2023, the number of people reporting that they don’t use condoms steadily increased year over year.) 

Finally, she calls out a lack of resources that parallel the growing number of STD cases. In other words, STD rates are going up, but resources are not. We need to be having more conversations about sexual health, and make STD testing and treatment more accessible.

Some Groups of People in the US Are More Susceptible

While we’ve focused on STD rates in the most infected states, it’s worth noting that if we look more closely, we’ll notice that specific groups of people experience higher rates of sexually transmitted diseases. 

For instance, younger people, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, Black/Latino/American Indian/Hawaiian people, cisgender women, and individuals in socioeconomically marginalized groups show higher rates of STDs. 

Many times, certain groups of people don’t have equal access to care (and the same quality of care) as other groups of people due to structural racism. This often means that these individuals would have to travel farther for the care they need and also pay more, proving to be a hurdle to receiving adequate healthcare.

Equal access to education, resources, and treatment is crucial in order to reverse the trends of increasing STD rates across the nation.

The Top 10 States With the Lowest Rates of STDs

We’ve discussed the states with the highest occurrences of sexually transmitted diseases, but which states have the lowest rates? Here’s what the data is telling us:

How has Vermont accomplished these exceptionally low rates? It’s taken years of effort from public health experts and local officials, who’ve worked tirelessly to implement prevention campaigns and early STD testing, including expanded hours for people to get tested and treated. The state also has a comprehensive approach to STD treatment and management via individuals’ primary care providers, making it a more regular part of residents’ healthcare exams.

Fighting the Upward Trend of Nationwide STD Rates

Prevention efforts — like increased communication between healthcare providers and patients — along with regularly scheduled STD testing are mandatory if we’re going to reverse the increasing rates of STDs that the United States is seeing. Some diseases also have vaccines that can protect individuals from becoming infected and spreading the disease to others.

Reducing the number of infected people is possible. In fact, in 2022, the number of gonorrhea infections saw a decrease for the first time in a decade!