Rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) have risen recently in the United States, and Georgia is generally following that trend. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rates of three of the most common diseases (gonorrhea, chlamydia, and primary and secondary syphilis) have risen for four straight years, and the state of Georgia’s data largely mirrors that trend. In fact, Georgia has among the highest rates in the country for several common STDs.

How common are sexually transmitted diseases in our state, which are the most prevalent and how have rates changed here over time? To understand the picture of STDs in Georgia, we’ll examine CDC data as well as numbers from the Georgia Department of Public Health.

Chlamydia Rates in Georgia

Georgia has the sixth-highest rate of chlamydia in the country, joining several other Southern states near the top of the list. The state’s chlamydia infection rate is about 18% higher than the overall U.S. rate.

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
North Carolina 619.7
Alabama 615.5
New York 591.6
Illinois 589.9
Total 528.8
Lowest
Massachusetts 430.4
Minnesota 426.4
New Jersey 394
Idaho 368.4
Wyoming 365.8
Maine 342.1
Utah 332.2
New Hampshire 330.5
Vermont 297.5
West Virginia 226.1

Georgia’s chlamydia rate has climbed steadily over the past couple of decades and has jumped every year since 2013, rising nearly 34% in that time. That’s the third-largest chlamydia rate increase in the country in that period.

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

1998 318
1999 378
2000 375.5
2001 392
2002 407.2
2003 414.5
2004 393.2
2005 372.8
2006 437
2007 462.2
2008 445.7
2009 417.2
2010 460.1
2011 518.9
2012 497.1
2013 466.2
2014 509.9
2015 550.3
2016 594.7
2017 623.7

Georgia has the fourth-highest chlamydia rate in the South, and that region is home to three of the top five states overall.

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

Louisiana 742.4
Mississippi 707.6
South Carolina 649.8
Georgia 623.7
North Carolina 619.7
Alabama 615.5
Arkansas 579.6
Delaware 566.3
Maryland 555.4
Oklahoma 554.4
Texas 543.9
Tennessee 527.5
Virginia 503.7
Florida 485.2
Kentucky 435.4
West Virginia 226.1

 Gonorrhea Rates in Georgia

Georgia ranks in the top 10 among all states for the prevalence of gonorrhea in the state with a rate that’s more than 25% higher than the overall U.S. rate for gonorrhea.

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
North Carolina 225.4
Arkansas 224.5
Georgia 217.5
Ohio 216.3
Total 171.5
Lowest
Rhode Island 102.9
Hawaii 95.1
Utah 83.3
Montana 75
West Virginia 70.8
Wyoming 70.4
Idaho 58.6
Maine 46.6
New Hampshire 38.4
Vermont 32.5

Gonorrhea has been growing more common in Georgia over the past half-decade, though today the rate is lower than it was around the start of the 21st century.

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

1998 260.7
1999 265.2
2000 243.4
2001 219.6
2002 220.2
2003 205.1
2004 183.2
2005 176
2006 222.8
2007 191.3
2008 170.1
2009 143
2010 161.3
2011 159.6
2012 145.5
2013 130.1
2014 135.2
2015 153.7
2016 195.4
2017 217.5

Eight of the 10 states with the highest rates of gonorrhea are in the South, and Georgia is near the middle of 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
North Carolina 225.4
Arkansas 224.5
Georgia 217.5
Delaware 187.4
Tennessee 186.8
Maryland 182.5
Texas 170.2
Kentucky 167.2
Florida 153.7
Virginia 149.7
West Virginia 70.8

Syphilis Rates in Georgia

Georgia has the fourth-highest rate of primary and secondary syphilis cases in the country, and the state’s rate is more than 50% higher than the national level.

Primary and secondary syphilis infections per 100,000 people

Highest
Nevada 20
California 17.1
Louisiana 14.5
Georgia 14.5
Arizona 13.6
New York 11.9
Florida 11.6
North Carolina 11.2
Mississippi 10.4
Total 9.5
Lowest
Idaho 3.8
West Virginia 3.4
Iowa 3.2
New Hampshire 3.2
Connecticut 3.1
Wisconsin 3
Nebraska 2.3
Vermont 2.1
Alaska 1.8
Wyoming 0.7

Georgia’s rate of primary and secondary syphilis cases has jumped every year since 2010, and the prevalence of syphilis has more than doubled since a 21st century low in 2001.

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

1998 4.9
1999 5.1
2000 5.1
2001 4.8
2002 5.3
2003 6.9
2004 6.8
2005 7.6
2006 6.6
2007 7.2
2008 9.6
2009 9.9
2010 8
2011 8.8
2012 9.4
2013 9.8
2014 13
2015 14.1
2016 13.2
2017 14.5

Georgia and Louisiana are tied for the highest syphilis infection rate in the South.

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

Louisiana 14.5
Georgia 14.5
Florida 11.6
North Carolina 11.2
Mississippi 10.4
Maryland 9.5
Oklahoma 9.5
Alabama 8.7
Texas 8
Arkansas 7.8
Tennessee 7.3
South Carolina 7.3
Virginia 6.4
Delaware 6
Kentucky 5.9
West Virginia 3.4

HIV & Other STD Rates in Georgia

HIV

Georgia has the single highest population-adjusted rate of HIV cases in the U.S., and more than 2,500 people in our state were newly diagnosed with HIV in 2017. In addition to the highest rate of HIV in the country (24.9 per 100,000 in Georgia vs. 11.8 per 100,000 overall), HIV prevalence grew by more than 8% in our state between 2016 and 2017.

Hepatitis B & C

Acute infections of hepatitis B occur at the same frequency as the national rate of 1 per 100,000 in Georgia, and the rate of cases has dropped slightly over the past few years, and while the state’s rate of acute hep C cases (0.9 per 100,000) is a tick lower than the national rate (1 per 100,000), Georgia’s rate of hep C infections has gone up by about 80% since 2013.

HPV

Human papillomavirus is the most common STD in the world, and it causes most cases of several types of cancer, including cervical, penile, anal and vulvar cancer. Georgia has a higher-than-median rate of HPV-related cancer, 13.1 per 100,000 vs. the national median of 11.7 per 100,000.

STDs in Georgia Cities & Counties

STDs are more common in Georgia than in most other states, but a closer look at state data reveals that Georgia’s position on several of these lists is driven by just a few locales in the state.

Chlamydia

Nearly half the chlamydia cases in Georgia occured in the Atlanta metro area, though many counties across the state, even outside that area, have far higher rates than the state.*

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

Liberty 1,414.00
Dougherty 1,243.50
Richmond 1,221.50
Terrell 1,019.60
Clayton 1,010.00
Turner 1,004.90
Washington 969.8
Bibb 968.8
Fulton 944.2
Muscogee 942.5

Gonorrhea

More than 1 in 2 cases of gonorrhea in Georgia in 2017 occurred in the Atlanta metro area.*

Georgia counties by gonorrhea infection rate (cases per 100,000 population), top 10

Ware 538
Richmond 521.8
Muscogee 496.2
Fulton 420.7
Clayton 401.2
Early 369.1
Turner 364.3
DeKalb 352.5
Dougherty 340.8
Bibb 334.9

Primary and secondary syphilis

Nearly all cases of primary and secondary syphilis were diagnosed in people living in the Atlanta area.*

Georgia counties by primary and secondary syphilis infection rate (cases per 100,000 population)

Lowndes 47.6
Fulton 40.8
DeKalb 38.6
Clayton 28.4
Chatham 22
Dougherty 17.9
Richmond 17.3
Liberty 14.7
Bibb 14.4
Bulloch 14.4

* For the purposes of this report, the Atlanta metro area is defined as the following counties: Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry and Rockdale.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, Georgia has some of the highest rates of STDs in the country, and while many of them have seen recent increases, the reality is that most STDs can be prevented with behavioral changes or even medication. And for those who do contract an STD, many of them can be cured outright and others can be made chronic. But the most important thing individuals can do to reduce the prevalence of STDs in Georgia is to get tested so they know their status.

Additional References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance 2017. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/std/stats17/SRtables.pdf

Georgia Department of Public Health Data Warehouse, Online Analytical Statistical Information System interactive tool. (2019). Accessed from https://oasis.state.ga.us/

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, 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.