Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are a concern for any sexually active individual. In 2018, nearly 1 in 5 individuals in the U.S. was estimated to have an STI, totaling around 68 million people, and more than 1 million new infections around the world each day. Unfortunately, because of the pandemic, there appeared to be low occurances of preventive, testing, and treatment services around the world which is leading to a large resurgence of infections. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the U.S. and Canada have reported an increase in syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia, while other less common STDs have begun to surface accross the globe.
An estimated 38 million people were living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) by the end of 2019, approximately half a billion people around the world have contracted genital herpes, and around 1 million people contract a curable STI every day. Half of all sexually active persons will contract an STI by the age of 25.
Due to the continuous rise in STD cases, the topic of prevention, treatment, and accurate statistics remains a hot discussion. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), certain challenges have encouraged this spread of STDs:
“Many state and local STD program budgets have been cut in recent years—resulting in staff layoffs, reduced clinic hours, and increased patient co-pays that can limit access to essential diagnosis and treatment services.”
Along with this, limited access to healthcare, untreated cases, and lack of education work against the push towards STD prevention.
With the knowledge of current data and preventative measures, we at Priority STD Testing hope to promote sexual health and STD awareness. Unfortunately, a study submitted to the Journal of Adolescent Health in 2016 showed that only 12% of all cases in young adults are reported—the rest often continue to progress undiagnosed. For this reason, we’ve put together this resource of current data about STDs in the US and abroad, featuring up-to-date trends and hot spots.
US STD Data
Based on preliminary surveillance data from the CDC in 2021, the rate of STD infections is continuing to rise in the United States. , This preliminary data is also showing that there were 2.5 million reported cases in the U.S. of syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia in 2021. . The CDC also claims that all of the most commonly reported STDs in the US have seen dramatic increases in prevalence since 2017.
- Chlamydia fell roughly 13% from 2019 to 1,579,885 in 2020, although its believed to be caused by lack of testing more so than lowering infection rates
- Gonorrhea cases reached 677,769 in 2020, marking a 5.7% increase from 2019 and a 111% increase since the historic low in 2009.
- Syphilis saw an incidence increase of 6.8% from 2019 to 2020, resulting in a total of 133,945 cases, and congenital syphilis experienced a spike of 15% from the previous year.
STDs also show varying trends according to sex, age groups and ethnicity. According to the CDC’s 2020 surveillance, chlamydia infections actually decreased among women, with a 15% drop in those aged 15-19, and 10% in those 20-24.. Gonnorhea infections increased for both men and women during 2019 – 2022, but women saw a greater increase at 15% while male infections increased by 6.6%. Syphilis infections increased for both men and women, but men who have sex with other men experienced a larger increase in primary and secondary infections (when syphilis is most contagious), accounting for 53% of all male cases in 2020. However, primary and secondary syphilis infections are growing in women, increasing 21% from 2019 to 2020.
Age also has a significant impact on STD prevalence, as explained by the CDC:
“Compared with older adults, sexually active adolescents aged 15–19 years and young adults aged 20–24 years are at higher risk of acquiring STDs for a combination of behavioral, biological, and cultural reasons.”
The American Sexual Health Association elaborates on the subject by highlighting factors that put young adults at a greater risk for STDs, including the increased likelihood of drug and/or alcohol abuse, multiple sex partners and unprotected sex. In 2019-2020 data from the CDC, almost 61% of all reported chlamydia cases were among men and women aged 15-24 years old. Within that same timeframe, primary and secondary syphilis infections increased 24% in women aged 15-44 years old.
This drastic increase in cases can be attributed directly to a variety of factors, including poor education. As of October 2020, Sex education is only required in 30 states and the District of Columbia with only 28 of those also mandating HIV education. A total of 39 states require education about HIV. This means there are 20 states without mandated education on topics such as safer sex practices and STD preventative measures. Shockingly, only 22 states require accurate and comprehensive safer sex and STD prevention curriculum. This lack of education results in many young adults being without the information they need to make informed, responsible decisions regarding their sexual health.
Lack of education, poor access to healthcare and low economic standing all negatively affect the movement towards better sexual health. This is especially true for minority groups, including the Hispanic, Asian, Black, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander and Native American/Alaska Native communities. For example, in 2018, the CDC revealed that reported instances of chlamydia for Black females were 5 times the rate of White females. The rate of gonorrhea for the Hispanic community was 1.6 times higher, and the rate of primary and secondary syphilis cases was 2.6 times higher for the Native American/Alaska Native population, as compared to the White population.
Related Article: How Common Are STDs in America?
STD Statistics by State
Statistics gathered from state-level surveys help paint the picture of the overall sexual health of the US. Whether due to more access to healthcare, better quality sex education or other factors, some states have lower STD incidence rates than others.
Because the population of each state varies greatly, simply providing the total number of estimated cases per state does not provide an accurate representation. For example, while California has the highest reported STD cases, it also has the largest population. Instead, by calculating the incidence rate per 100,000 people, we can accurately compare the STD rates of each state, regardless of population size. However, when analyzing the ranking of each state, it is also important to consider the multitude of factors that influence the growing number of STD cases, such as the racial and socioeconomic makeup of each state’s population, as mentioned above.
Currently, Mississippistands as the state with the highest STD incidence rate with 1,784 cases per 100,000 people, followed by Louisiana (with 1,718 cases per 100,000 people) and Georgia (with 1,585 cases per 100,000 people). On the other hand, the states with the lowest STD incidence rates are Vermont (with 334 cases per 100,000 people), New Hampshire (with 365 cases per 100,000 people), Maine (with 440 cases per 100,000 people) and Wyoming (with 497 cases per 100,000 people).
The increased rate in STD infections in Mississippi is thought to be due to several factors, including drug use, poverty, stigma, and unstable housing, which may reduce individuals’ access to prevention and care resources. There has also been a decrease in condom usage by vulnerable groups, such as younger people and gay or bisexual men. The state has also experienced a severe budgetary cut to STD programs across the state, and many local programs have felt the hit. Budget cuts resulted in clinic closures that led to reduced screenings being available, staff loss, and limited patient follow-up for adequate care.
- STD Incidence Rate per 100,000 855
- Total Estimated Cases 41,676
- STD Incidence Rate per 100,000 1,144
- Total Estimated Cases 8,464
- STD Incidence Rate per 100,000 780
- Total Estimated Cases 54,727
- STD Incidence Rate per 100,000 841
- Total Estimated Cases 25,267
- STD Incidence Rate per 100,000 805
- Total Estimated Cases 318,280
- STD Incidence Rate per 100,000 684
- Total Estimated Cases 38,354
- STD Incidence Rate per 100,000 607
- Total Estimated Cases 21,781
- STD Incidence Rate per 100,000 807
- Total Estimated Cases 7,763
- STD Incidence Rate per 100,000 669
- Total Estimated Cases 140,391
- STD Incidence Rate per 100,000 848
- Total Estimated Cases 88,443
- STD Incidence Rate per 100,000 452
- Total Estimated Cases 7,760
- STD Incidence Rate per 100,000 814
- Total Estimated Cases 104,209
- STD Incidence Rate per 100,000 712
- Total Estimated Cases 47,466
- STD Incidence Rate per 100,000 623
- Total Estimated Cases 19,599
- STD Incidence Rate per 100,000 674
- Total Estimated Cases 19,635
- STD Incidence Rate per 100,000 612
- Total Estimated Cases 27,262
- STD Incidence Rate per 100,000 1,046
- Total Estimated Cases 48,996
- STD Incidence Rate per 100,000 384
- Total Estimated Cases 5,246
- STD Incidence Rate per 100,000 769
- Total Estimated Cases 46,539
- STD Incidence Rate per 100,000 570
- Total Estimated Cases 39,104
- STD Incidence Rate per 100,000 682
- Total Estimated Cases 67,948
- STD Incidence Rate per 100,000 563
- Total Estimated Cases 31,399
- STD Incidence Rate per 100,000 1,082
- Total Estimated Cases 32,288
- STD Incidence Rate per 100,000 828
- Total Estimated Cases 50,615
- STD Incidence Rate per 100,000 585
- Total Estimated Cases 6,145
- STD Incidence Rate per 100,000 565
- Total Estimated Cases 10,849
- STD Incidence Rate per 100,000 823
- Total Estimated Cases 24,673
- STD Incidence Rate per 100,000 327
- Total Estimated Cases 4,391
- STD Incidence Rate per 100,000 513
- Total Estimated Cases 46,194
- STD Incidence Rate per 100,000 937
- Total Estimated Cases 19,565
- STD Incidence Rate per 100,000 804
- Total Estimated Cases 159,587
- STD Incidence Rate per 100,000 889
- Total Estimated Cases 91,333
- STD Incidence Rate per 100,000 653
- Total Estimated Cases 4,933
- STD Incidence Rate per 100,000 764
- Total Estimated Cases 89,065
- STD Incidence Rate per 100,000 801
- Total Estimated Cases 31,487
- STD Incidence Rate per 100,000 617
- Total Estimated Cases 25,563
- STD Incidence Rate per 100,000 594
- Total Estimated Cases 76,064
- STD Incidence Rate per 100,000 653
- Total Estimated Cases 6,920
- STD Incidence Rate per 100,000 957
- Total Estimated Cases 48,084
- STD Incidence Rate per 100,000 709
- Total Estimated Cases 6,166
- STD Incidence Rate per 100,000 795
- Total Estimated Cases 53,389
- STD Incidence Rate per 100,000 694
- Total Estimated Cases 196,441
- STD Incidence Rate per 100,000 439
- Total Estimated Cases 13,618
- STD Incidence Rate per 100,000 319
- Total Estimated Cases 1,990
- STD Incidence Rate per 100,000 655
- Total Estimated Cases 55,474
- STD Incidence Rate per 100,000 627
- Total Estimated Cases 46,431
- STD Incidence Rate per 100,000 265
- Total Estimated Cases 4,812
- STD Incidence Rate per 100,000 622
- Total Estimated Cases 36,048
- STD Incidence Rate per 100,000 432
- Total Estimated Cases 2,503
Be informed on sexual health. Learn more about STDs in the US with an in-depth look at statistics, infection rates, and more.Prevention and Testing
To reduce this exponential growth of STD cases, the most effective course of action is to encourage prevention and testing. Utilizing preventative measures and getting tested regularly will help prevent the spread of STDs and STIs and encourage prompt, timely medical attention to those already infected.
The CDC recommends the consistent use of external (or male) latex condoms as a barrier during sex to prevent the transference of HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital ulcer diseases and more. However, external condoms must be used properly and consistently.
Proper usage of external condoms includes but is not limited to:
- Consistent use throughout the entire duration of sexual activity
- Correct condom application
- Removal and replacement of a condom as soon as it breaks
- Avoidance of oil-based lubricants that might weaken the latex
- Proper disposal and removal of the condom to prevent the exchange of genital fluids
Other preventative measures, such as the internal (or female) condom and dental dams can be used as preventative measures. Internal condoms have shown to be effective protection against not only pregnancy but also STIs and HIV. Dental dams are typically used for protection during oral sex and also must be used correctly for optimal results. Similar to the external condom, the overall effectiveness of these types of protection is reliant on proper usage.
The American Sexual Health Association offers a variety of lifestyle practices that can help reduce infection rates and encourage better sexual health. These methods include:
- Refraining from sexual contact altogether. This is the most effective (albeit unconventional and unrealistic) method of STD prevention.
- Mutual Monogamy
- In a mutually monogamous relationship, both partners do not have sexual partners outside of the relationship and only see each other. If both partners are STD/STI negative, the risk of STD or STI contraction is extremely low.
- Proactive Testing
- The CDC recommends that all sexually active people receive regular STD testing to protect their sexual health and that of their partner(s).
- Physical barriers such as condoms are recommended by the CDC as effective methods to prevent not only pregnancy but also the transmission of STDs.
Of course, the best way to increase awareness of STDs and safer sex practices is to encourage active communication. Having open discussions with friends, family members and partner(s) regarding sexual health is a great way to stay knowledgeable and informed. Leaving an open line of communication, especially with current and potential partners, reduces the likelihood of unintentional transference and fosters a sense of mutual understanding as well.