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
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)
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)
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
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)
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)
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
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)
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)
HIV & Other STD Rates in Georgia
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.
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.
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
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
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)
* 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.
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.
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.