Alabama has among the highest rates of sexually transmitted diseases and infections of any state in the U.S., ranking in the top 10 for chlamydia and gonorrhea and near the top 25% for syphilis. Not only is Alabama one of the states where sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are most common, rates of many different STDs are on the rise here in Alabama, which reflects a broader trend in the United States that has seen rates of several STDs climb for four consecutive years.
Which sexually transmitted diseases and infections are most common here in Alabama, how have their rates changed over time, and which cities and counties around the state are the biggest STD hotbeds? To answer all of those questions, we’ll examine data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Alabama Department of Public Health.
Chlamydia Rates in Alabama
Alabama has the seventh-highest rate of chlamydia infections in the U.S., and the state’s rate is about 15% higher than the overall national rate of such infections.
Chlamydia infections per 100,000 people
While Alabama’s rate of chlamydia has fallen from the decade high recorded in 2012, the rate has nearly doubled over the past 15 years.
Alabama chlamydia rate by year (cases per 100,000 people)
Six of the 10 states with the highest rates of chlamydia are in the South, and Alabama is fifth regionally, though Alabama’s rate is more than 15% lower than the regional leader, Louisiana.
Chlamydia infection rate, Southern states (cases per 100,000 people)
Gonorrhea Rates in Alabama
Alabama ranks No. 5 overall in the United States with a population-adjusted gonorrhea rate that’s about 40% higher than the overall U.S. level.
Gonorrhea infections per 100,000 people
The gonorrhea rate in Alabama had been trending in a good direction, but the rate has gone up for the past two straight years and stands at about 66% higher than the 21st century low recorded in 2015.
Alabama gonorrhea rate by year (cases per 100,000 people)
Only two states in the top 10 for the prevalence of gonorrhea are outside the South, and Alabama has the region’s fourth-highest rate.
Gonorrhea infection rate, Southern states (cases per 100,000 people)
Syphilis Rates in Alabama
Alabama’s population-adjusted rate of primary and secondary syphilis places the state at No. 15 overall, but Alabama’s rate is lower than the overall U.S. infection rate.
Primary and secondary syphilis infections per 100,000 people
Primary and secondary syphilis has become much more common in Alabama over the past half-decade, with the rate rising by nearly 130% since 2013.
Alabama primary and secondary syphilis rate by year (cases per 100,000 people)
Six of the 10 states where syphilis is most common are in the South, but Alabama ranks right in the middle of the pack regionally.
Primary and secondary syphilis infection rates, Southern states (cases per 100,000 people)
HIV & Other STD Rates in Alabama
More than 650 people were newly diagnosed with HIV in Alabama in 2017, giving the state the 11th-highest population-adjusted HIV rate in the country. However, Alabama did record a slight drop in the HIV rate (about 1%) between 2016 and 2017. See best HIV test options.
Hepatitis B & C
Acute infections of hepatitis B occur in Alabama at a rate higher than the overall U.S. rate, though such infections are on the decline in our state. In fact, hep B has fallen by half since 2014. Acute hep C infections have fallen as well and now stand at about 30% below the overall national rate. See best hepatitis test options.
Alabama has the No. 13 rate of cancers related to human papillomavirus, which would indicate the state has a large number of untreated cases of HPV. Human papillomavirus is the most common STD in the world; in fact, most sexually active people will get at least one strain in their lives. Most cases of HPV either clear up on their own or never cause serious health problems, but some strains are dangerous and, when untreated, can lead to cancer, such as cervical, penile and anal cancer. The incredible prevalence of HPV is difficult to pinpoint, which is why understanding HPV-caused cancer can be used to reveal the depth of the HPV crisis in a state. In addition to Alabama’s place just outside the top 10, the state’s population-adjusted HPV-caused cancer rate of 13.1 per 100,000 is higher than the national median of 11.7 per 100,000. See best HPV test options.
STDs in Alabama Cities & Counties
Alabama’s position near the top of the country for several different sexually transmitted diseases is buoyed, in part, by how common STDs are in three metro areas, Birmingham, Mobile and Huntsville, which all account for an outsized proportion of cases, particularly Birmingham.
Nearly half of all chlamydia cases in Alabama are diagnosed in people living in Birmingham, Mobile or Huntsville, and Birmingham alone accounts for almost 1 in 4. The Birmingham metro area, in fact, has the eighth-highest chlamydia rate of all major U.S. metro areas.
Alabama counties by chlamydia infection rate (cases per 100,000 people), top 10
Nearly 60% of all gonorrhea cases are diagnosed in people living in Birmingham, Mobile or Huntsville, and Birmingham alone accounts for about 31%. Additionally, Birmingham’s gonorrhea rate is the third highest among all major U.S. metro centers.
Alabama counties by gonorrhea infection rate (cases per 100,000 people), top 10
Primary and secondary syphilis
About 1 in 3 syphilis cases in Alabama occur in individuals living in Birmingham, and Mobile and Huntsville add another 24%.
Alabama counties by syphilis infection rate (cases per 100,000 people), top 10*
* Data from the state of Alabama includes all syphilis cases, not just primary and secondary syphilis, which our overall national ranking is limited to. Countywide data for only primary and secondary syphilis for Alabama was unavailable.
The STD crisis in Alabama is serious and worsening. Alabama already ranks among the nation’s leaders when it comes to how prevalent several different sexually transmitted diseases and infections are in our state, and most STDs have seen their rates surge in recent years. Combatting the high rates of STDs in Alabama is up to everyday people. That’s because almost all sexually active people will contract at least one STD at some point in their lives, so the truth is that most people who are infected don’t know it and so they pass infections along unwittingly. Bringing down Alabama’s high rates of STDs means equipping yourself with knowledge and making sure that you get yourself tested for the infections you’re most at risk of contracting so that you can stop the cycle of STDs.
Take Charge of Your Sexual Health Today
At-home, private, testing is probably the best way to maintain a long and healthy sex life, and you should continue to do it until you are with a monogamous partner and you’ve both tested negative for all STDs. To get started, review our At Home STD Test Kit options today because knowledge, is power.
- Alabama Department of Public Health, STD Statistics. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.alabamapublichealth.gov/std/statistics.html
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HIV Surveillance Report, Diagnoses of HIV Infection in the United States and Dependent Areas, 2017. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/pdf/library/reports/surveillance/cdc-hiv-surveillance-report-2017-vol-29.pdf
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HPV-Associated Cancer Rates by State, 2011-2015. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/hpv/statistics/state/index.htm
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance 2017. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/std/stats17/SRtables.pdf
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Surveillance for Viral Hepatitis – United States, 2016. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/statistics/2016surveillance/index.htm
Note: Some states have published more recent data for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and primary and secondary syphilis. For states in which that’s the case, we have substituted the individual state data for 2018 and used that in our rankings, while other states’ rankings are based on 2017 numbers. In some cases, we assume that when the full national dataset is published by the CDC, states’ positions relative to other states will change some, though those changes are unlikely to be dramatic, since the CDC data comes from the states.