Arkansas ranks among the top states when it comes to the prevalence of several different sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs. In addition to the state’s position among the states with the highest rates of STDs, most such infections are on the rise across Arkansas. This trend in Arkansas tracks with broader national trends that have seen rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and primary and secondary syphilis rise for the past four straight years.

Which sexually transmitted diseases and infections are most common here in Arkansas, how have their rates changed over the past few years, and where in the state are the highest concentrations of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis? To understand the STD problem in Arkansas, we’ll explore data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Arkansas Department of Health.

Chlamydia Rates in Arkansas

Arkansas ranks No. 12 overall in the U.S. with a population-adjusted chlamydia rate that’s about 10% higher than the rate for the entire United States.

Chlamydia infections per 100,000 people

Highest
Alaska 799.8
Louisiana 742.4
Mississippi 707.6
New Mexico 651.6
South Carolina 649.8
Georgia 623.7
Alabama 615.5
North Carolina 612.2
New York 591.6
Illinois 589.9
Arkansas 576.7
Total 528.8
Lowest
North Dakota 432.5
Massachusetts 425.7
New Jersey 392
Idaho 368.4
Wyoming 365.8
Maine 342.1
New Hampshire 330.5
Utah 323.7
Vermont 297.5
West Virginia 226.1

The chlamydia rate in Arkansas has gone up every year since 2014, but it’s up just a bit from the rate in 2012.

Arkansas chlamydia rate by year (cases per 100,000 people)

2012 563.3
2013 522
2014 526.1
2015 542.8
2016 562
2017 576.7

Six of the 10 states with the highest chlamydia rates are in the South, which serves to push Arkansas to the middle of the region.

Chlamydia infection rate, Southern states (cases per 100,000 people)

Louisiana 742.4
Mississippi 707.6
South Carolina 649.8
Georgia 623.7
Alabama 615.5
North Carolina 612.2
Maryland 586.3
Arkansas 576.7
Delaware 566.3
Oklahoma 554.4
Texas 543.9
Tennessee 522.5
Virginia 488.3
Florida 485.2
Kentucky 435.4
West Virginia 226.1

Gonorrhea Rates in Arkansas

Arkansas ranks No. 7 overall in the United States when it comes to the prevalence of new gonorrhea cases. The state’s seventh-place rate is more than 30% higher than the overall U.S. rate.

Gonorrhea infections per 100,000 people

Highest
Mississippi 309.8
Alaska 295.1
Louisiana 256.7
South Carolina 254.4
Alabama 245.7
Oklahoma 231.4
Arkansas 223.5
North Carolina 220.9
Georgia 217.5
Ohio 216.3
Total 171.9
Lowest
Rhode Island 102.9
Hawaii 95.1
Utah 81.2
Montana 75
West Virginia 70.8
Wyoming 70.4
Idaho 58.6
Maine 46.6
New Hampshire 38.4
Vermont 32.5

The gonorrhea rate in Arkansas has climbed steadily since 2013, rising by nearly two-thirds in that time.

Arkansas gonorrhea rate by year (cases per 100,000 people)

2012 146
2013 135.4
2014 153
2015 160.5
2016 192.5
2017 223.5

Eight of the top 10 states for gonorrhea are in the South, and Arkansas comes in No. 6 in the region.

Gonorrhea infection rate, Southern states (cases per 100,000 people)

Mississippi 309.8
Louisiana 256.7
South Carolina 254.4
Alabama 245.7
Oklahoma 231.4
Arkansas 223.5
North Carolina 220.9
Georgia 217.5
Delaware 187.4
Tennessee 185
Maryland 170.3
Texas 170.2
Kentucky 167.2
Florida 153.7
Virginia 143.3
West Virginia 70.8

Syphilis Rates in Arkansas

Arkansas is ranked 20th nationally for the population-adjusted rate of primary and secondary syphilis infections, but the state’s rate is more than 15% lower than the overall national rate.

Primary and secondary syphilis infections per 100,000 people, top 25

Nevada 19.7
California 17.1
Georgia 14.5
Louisiana 14.5
Arizona 13.1
Maryland 12.2
New York 11.9
Florida 11.6
North Carolina 10.6
Mississippi 10.4
Illinois 9.6
Oklahoma 9.5
Washington 9.3
New Mexico 9.3
Alabama 8.7
Oregon 8.6
Missouri 8.3
Texas 8
Massachusetts 7.9
Arkansas 7.8
Tennessee 7.3
South Carolina 7.3
Rhode Island 6.7
Hawaii 6.6
Ohio 6.3
Total 9.5

Syphilis prevalence has been on a steady increase in Arkansas over the past half-decade, and the rate has nearly doubled since 2014.

Arkansas primary and secondary syphilis rate by year (cases per 100,000 people)

2012 5.9
2013 6
2014 4.1
2015 4.5
2016 5
2017 7.8

Six of the 10 states with the highest syphilis rates are in the South, and 12 of the top 25 states are Southern. Arkansas ranks in the bottom half of the region.

Primary and secondary syphilis infection rates, Southern states (cases per 100,000 people)

Georgia 14.5
Louisiana 14.5
Maryland 12.2
Florida 11.6
North Carolina 10.6
Mississippi 10.4
Oklahoma 9.5
Alabama 8.7
Texas 8
Arkansas 7.8
Tennessee 7.3
South Carolina 7.3
Virginia 6
Delaware 6
Kentucky 5.9
West Virginia 3.4

HIV & Other STD Rates in Arkansas

HIV

Nearly 300 people were newly diagnosed with HIV in Arkansas in 2017, and the state ranks among the 20 states with the highest population-adjusted rates of new HIV diagnoses. However, Arkansas has seen a 7% decline in the HIV rate since 2016. See Best Ways to Test for HIV

Hepatitis B & C

Arkansas has the lowest rate of acute hepatitis C infections in the United States, though the state has a higher rate of acute hep B infections than the overall national rate. The hep C rate has declined to close to zero in Arkansas in recent years, while the acute hep B rate has jumped by more than 75% over the past few years. See Best Ways to Test for Hepatitis C

HPV

The world’s most common sexually transmitted disease, human papillomavirus (HPV), also happens to be the primary cause of several types of cancers, including cervical, penile and anal cancers. While no reliable data exists to tell us exactly how many people in Arkansas have HPV at any given time, we can look at the state’s rate of HPV-related cancers. Arkansas has the fifth-highest rate of HPV-related cancers, meaning it’s likely many people have untreated HPV in the state. The HPV-caused cancer rate in Arkansas is 14.2 per 100,000, a few points higher than the national median of 11.7 per 100,000. See Best Ways to Test for HPV

STDs in Arkansas Cities & Counties

While Arkansas mostly ranks high among states for how prevalent STDs are, a large proportion of all STD cases are diagnosed in just one area — Little Rock. Another metro area, Fayetteville, adds even more.

Chlamydia

Nearly 1 in 4 chlamydia cases in Arkansas come from the Little Rock area.

Arkansas counties by chlamydia infection rate (cases per 100,000 people), top 10

Jefferson 1368.7
Mississippi 1283.2
Crittenden 1253.3
Phillips 1200.7
Hempstead 1088.7
Miller 977.6
Ouachita 955.3
Columbia 948.1
Nevada 936.7
Pulaski 919.9

Gonorrhea

Little Rock and Fayetteville combined to account for nearly 40% of all gonorrhea cases in Arkansas.

Arkansas counties by gonorrhea infection rate (cases per 100,000 people), top 10

Pulaski 414.3
Jefferson 610.6
Craighead 346.4
Washington 158.6
Searcy 222.5
Mississippi 635.7
Faulkner 190.9
Crittenden 471.8
Garland 201.7
Miller 447.9

Primary and secondary syphilis

Well over half of all syphilis infections occurred in people living in the Fayetteville or Little Rock areas.

Arkansas counties by primary and secondary syphilis infection rate (cases per 100,000 people)

Miller 36.4
Hempstead 32
Clark 26.9
Jefferson 23.1
Pulaski 18.5
Hot Spring 14.9
Lonoke 11
Washington 9.1
Pope 7.8
Faulkner 7.3

Conclusion

Arkansas ranks near the top of the country when it comes to how common certain sexually transmitted disease and infections are. And while the state is generally seeing an increase in the prevalence of most such STDs, Arkansas has made progress in preventing other diseases. What this means is that it’s possible to combat sexually transmitted diseases, and one of the best ways to do that is to ensure you’re getting regularly tested for the diseases you’re most at risk of contracting and spreading. Few people spread STDs knowingly, and only a fraction of people who actually have STDs ever get tested. Finding out your status can be difficult to contemplate, but knowledge is power when it comes to the fight against STDs.

Additional References

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. Additionally, some states reported rates that differed from the CDC-reported data for all years, and where the rates were similar, we’ve substituted the state-level data. Where the differences were substantial, we maintained the CDC-reported data in the interest of ensuring fair comparison across the states.