Louisiana is in the midst of an epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs. The state is among the national leaders in the prevalence of several STDs, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and HIV, and rates are generally increasing. The jump in STD rates in Louisiana largely tracks with a national trend that has seen STD rates climb steadily for four straight years, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Which types of sexually transmitted diseases and infections are most common here in Louisiana, how have their rates changed over time, and which locales in the state are most prone to STD infections? To answer all those questions, we’ll examine data from the CDC as well as the Louisiana Department of Health.
Chlamydia Rates in Louisiana
Louisiana has the second-highest chlamydia infection rate of any state, and Louisiana’s rate is more than 40% higher than the overall rate for the entire United States.
Chlamydia infections per 100,000 people
The prevalence of chlamydia in Louisiana has risen nearly 25% since 2012.
Louisiana chlamydia rate by year (cases per 100,000 people)
Six of the 10 states with the highest chlamydia infection rates are in the South, and Louisiana has the highest rate of any of them.
Chlamydia infection rate, Southern states (cases per 100,000 people)
Gonorrhea Rates in Louisiana
Louisiana ranks as the state with the third-highest rate of gonorrhea infections after accounting for population differences, and Louisiana’s rate is nearly 50% higher than the total U.S. rate.
Gonorrhea infections per 100,000 people
Gonorrhea rates have risen in Louisiana every year since 2013, and the state’s rate rose 33% between 2012 and 2017.
Louisiana gonorrhea rate by year (cases per 100,000 people)
Of the 10 states with the highest gonorrhea rates, 80% are in the South, where Louisiana ranks second in the region behind Mississippi.
Gonorrhea infection rate, Southern states (cases per 100,000 people)
Syphilis Rates in Louisiana
Louisiana’s rate of primary and secondary syphilis cases ties the state for third place with Georgia, and the state’s rate is about 52% higher than the overall U.S. rate.
Primary and secondary syphilis infections per 100,000 people
Despite the state’s high overall placement based on its syphilis rate, Louisiana has seen a recent decline of about 10% in the prevalence of primary and secondary syphilis.
Louisiana primary and secondary syphilis rate by year (cases per 100,000 people)
Louisiana and Georgia’s 14.5 per 100,000 is the highest syphilis rate in the South.
Primary and secondary syphilis infection rates, Southern states (cases per 100,000 people)
HIV & Other STD Rates in Louisiana
More than 1,000 people were newly diagnosed with HIV in Louisiana in 2017, giving the state the third-highest population-adjusted HIV rate in the country, though Louisiana’s HIV rate dropped by about 8% between 2016 and 2017 to help the state drop to third place from second place. See HIV test options.
Hepatitis B & C
Louisiana’s rate of acute hepatitis B infections is equal to the national rate, and the state’s rate of acute hep C infections is lower than the overall U.S. rate. Additionally, the state has seen rates of both types of viral hepatitis infections drop in recent years, with hep B cases falling 47% and hep C cases falling by a staggering 80%. See hepatitis test options.
Louisiana has the sixth-highest rate of HPV-related cancers, meaning cancers caused by the human papillomavirus, which is the most common STD in the world. In fact, HPV is so common that it’s impossible to pinpoint the precise number of people who have it at any given time, but examining the rate of HPV-related cancers can tell us how often people who have HPV go without treatment. In Louisiana, the population-adjusted rate of HPV-caused cancer is 14 per 100,000, compared with the national median of 11.7 per 100,000. See HPV test options.
STDs in Louisiana Cities & Parishes
Louisiana’s position near the top of most rankings of STD prevalence is due largely to a few cities and parishes around the state. Let’s take a closer look at these geographic differences.
The New Orleans metro area accounted for about 1 in 4 chlamydia cases, while the Baton Rouge area contributed 15% of all chlamydia cases in the state, and the greater New Orleans metro area is the No. 3 major metro area nationally when it comes to chlamydia prevalence.
Louisiana parishes by chlamydia infection rate (cases per 100,000 people), top 10
Baton Rouge and New Orleans accounted for about 2 in 5 gonorrhea cases in the state in 2017, and New Orleans had the fourth-highest gonorrhea prevalence of any major U.S. metro area.
Louisiana parishes by gonorrhea infection rate (cases per 100,000 people), top 10
|St. John the Baptist||300|
|East Baton Rouge||287|
Primary and secondary syphilis
About 6 in 10 cases of primary and secondary syphilis in Louisiana in 2017 were diagnosed among people living in just three areas — New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Shreveport, and the greater New Orleans metro area ranked No. 9 among all major U.S. metro areas for syphilis frequency.
Louisiana parishes by primary and secondary syphilis infection rate (cases per 100,000 people)
|West Baton Rouge||31|
|East Baton Rouge||22|
Not only does Louisiana rank among the states where several STDs are most common, the state also has seen rates of most sexually transmitted disease rise in recent years, which provides a huge reason for concern. But individuals in the state can help protect themselves by engaging in responsible practices, which includes getting themselves tested for a range of STDs, particularly the ones they are at the greatest risk of contracting, depending on their sexual behavior. As Louisiana has seen based on the modest decline of a few STDs and related illnesses, it is possible to make progress against STDs, but finding out your status goes a long way to making that progress a reality.
State of Louisiana Department of Health, Office of Public Health, 2016 STD/HIV Surveillance Report. (2017). Retrieved from http://ldh.la.gov/assets/oph/HIVSTD/std/STDAnnualReports/2016_STDHIV_SurveillanceReport_Final.pdf
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, 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, 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.