The state of sexually transmitted diseases in Delaware is a big of a mixed bag. While Delaware does have rates of some sexually transmitted diseases and infections, such as chlamydia and gonorrhea, that are among the highest in the nation, the state has relatively low rates for other STDs, such as syphilis and hepatitis B. But there’s one aspect to STDs in Delaware that is concerning regardless of the disease — rates of most infections are trending upward here in Delaware. The state isn’t alone, however; in fact, the U.S. has recorded four consecutive years of increasing rates of gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia.
Which STDs are growing increasingly common here in Delaware, how does our state stack up with others, and which areas of the state are the biggest STD hotspots? To understand that, we’ll look at data reported by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Chlamydia Rates in Delaware
Delaware’s population-adjusted rate of chlamydia infections, 566.3 per 100,000 people, puts the state at No. 14 overall, though it’s only about 7% higher than the overall U.S. rate. Still, Delaware’s chlamydia rate is more than double the rate posted by West Virginia, which has the lowest chlamydia rate at just 226.1 per 100,000 people.
Chlamydia infections per 100,000 people, top 20
Delaware’s chlamydia rate has risen nearly every year since 2014, and it’s up nearly 20% over the rate recorded in 2012.
Delaware chlamydia rate by year (cases per 100,000 people)
Seven of the 10 states with the highest chlamydia rates are in the South, and Delaware ranks in the bottom half of the region.
Chlamydia infection rate, Southern states (cases per 100,000 people)
Gonorrhea Rates in Delaware
In Delaware, gonorrhea infections occur at a rate of 187.4 per 100,000, which is nearly 10% higher than the overall U.S. rate and high enough that Delaware comes in at No. 14 among all 50 states. While Delaware’s rate is fairly close to the overall U.S. rate, it’s nearly five times higher than the rate recorded by Vermont, which has the nation’s lowest gonorrhea rate at 32.5 per 100,000 people.
Gonorrhea infections per 100,000 people, top 20
Every year since 2014 has seen an increase to the gonorrhea rate in Delaware, and since 2012, the rate has nearly doubled.
Delaware gonorrhea rate by year (cases per 100,000 people)
Among the top 10 states for gonorrhea, 80% of them are in the South, and while Delaware just ranks in the bottom half of the region, it’s about as close to Mississippi, the regional and national leader, as to the state with the region’s lowest rate, West Virginia.
Gonorrhea infection rate, Southern states (cases per 100,000 people)
Syphilis Rates in Delaware
The rate of syphilis infections in Delaware, 6 per 100,000, ties the state for No. 29 nationally with regional neighbor Virginia. Delaware’s more than one-third lower than the overall U.S. rate, though it’s several times higher than the rate posted by Wyoming, which, at 0.7 per 100,000, has by far the lowest syphilis rate in the nation.
Primary and secondary syphilis infections per 100,000 people, bottom 25
Delaware managed a slight drop in the syphilis rate between 2016 and 2017, but the rate has increased by nearly 50% since 2012.
Delaware primary and secondary syphilis rate by year (cases per 100,000 people)
Six of the 10 states with the highest infection rates for syphilis are in the South, but Delaware manages to rank third from the bottom.
Primary and secondary syphilis infection rates, Southern states (cases per 100,000 people)
HIV & Other STD Rates in Delaware
More than 100 people were newly diagnosed with HIV in Delaware in 2017, which gives the state the 12th-highest population-adjusted rate of the virus among the 50 states. Not only is Delaware’s rate already among the highest quarter in the U.S., it’s on the rise, jumping 10% since 2016. See Best Ways to Test for HIV
Hepatitis B & C
Acute infections of hepatitis B virus occur at a much lower rate in Delaware than in the rest of the U.S., 0.3 per 100,000 vs. 1 per 100,000, and the state’s rate has fallen every year since 2013. The same can’t be said of acute cases of hep C, on the other hand. Delaware’s rate of 2.6 per 100,000 is more than double the national rate, and the state recorded an increase of more than 500% between 2015 and 2016. See Best Ways to Test for Hepatitis C
Delaware is among the 10 states with the highest rates of cancers caused by HPV, or human papillomavirus. HPV is the world’s most common STD, and most sexually active people will contract at least one strain at some point in their lives. While the virus is harmless for most people, for some it can cause cancer if it goes untreated. In Delaware, such cancers, which includes cervical cancer, happen at a rate of 13.4 per 100,000, higher than the national median of 11.7 per 100,000, and high enough for the state to rank at No. 9 among the 50 states. See Best Ways to Test for HPV
STDs in Delaware Cities & Counties
Delaware’s three counties have STD rates that vary quite widely, with the two metro areas in the state accounting for a large percentage of cases.
Wilmington accounted for nearly 60% of chlamydia cases, and Dover added another 20%.
Delaware counties by chlamydia infection rate (cases per 100,000 people)
Dover and Wilmington combined accounted for more than 7 in 10 gonorrhea cases in Delaware.
Delaware counties by gonorrhea infection rate (cases per 100,000 people)
Primary and secondary syphilis
Nearly 2 in 3 syphilis cases were diagnosed among people living in the Wilmington area.
Delaware counties by primary and secondary syphilis infection rate (cases per 100,000 people)
Delaware generally does not rank among the states with the highest rates of several common sexually transmitted diseases, though that isn’t the case across the board. Still, it would be hard to consider Delaware a hotbed of most STDs. But that may not always be the case, as most STDs, including potentially deadly ones like HIV and syphilis, are becoming more common here in our state. How can you make a difference? By getting yourself tested and ensuring that you’re not unwittingly passing along sexually transmitted diseases and infections. Remember that most sexually active people will come down with at least one STD at some point in their lives, so there is no reason for shame or fear about finding out your STD status.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, NCHHSTP AtlasPlus. (Undated). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nchhstp/atlas/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, 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, 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
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.