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

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
Total 528.8
Lowest
North Dakota 432.5
Massachusetts 425.7
New Jersey 392
Idaho 368.4
Wyoming 365.8
Maine 342.1
Utah 332.2
New Hampshire 330.5
Vermont 297.5
West Virginia 226.1

The prevalence of chlamydia in Louisiana has risen nearly 25% since 2012.

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

2012 594.4
2013 621.3
2014 622.7
2015 692.1
2016 679.3
2017 742.4

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)

Louisiana 742.4
Mississippi 707.6
South Carolina 649.8
Georgia 623.7
Alabama 615.5
North Carolina 612.2
Maryland 586.3
Arkansas 579.6
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 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

Highest
Mississippi 309.8
Alaska 295.1
Louisiana 256.7
South Carolina 254.4
Alabama 245.7
Oklahoma 231.4
Arkansas 224.5
North Carolina 220.9
Georgia 217.5
Ohio 216.3
Total 171.9
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 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)

2012 192.8
2013 187.4
2014 193.6
2015 220.1
2016 230.8
2017 256.7

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)

Mississippi 309.8
Louisiana 256.7
South Carolina 254.4
Alabama 245.7
Oklahoma 231.4
Arkansas 224.5
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 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

Highest
Nevada 20
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
Total 9.5
Lowest
South Dakota 3.8
West Virginia 3.4
New Hampshire 3.2
Iowa 3.2
Connecticut 3.1
Wisconsin 3
Nebraska 2.3
Vermont 2.1
Alaska 1.8
Wyoming 0.7

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)

2012 7.4
2013 9.1
2014 12.4
2015 14.9
2016 16.1
2017 14.5

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)

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 Louisiana

HIV

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.

HPV

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.

Chlamydia

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

Madison 1,188.0
Orleans 1,177.0
Lincoln 1,070.0
Ouachita 953.0
Morehouse 951.0
Bienville 894.0
Caddo 886.0
Tangipahoa 857.0
Iberia 856.0
Natchitoches 855.0

Gonorrhea

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

Orleans 499
Ouachita 402
Morehouse 395
Richland 343
Madison 330
Lincoln 306
St. John the Baptist 300
Caddo 295
Rapides 295
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)

Caddo 43
Orleans 37
Jackson 32
West Baton Rouge 31
Ouachita 26
Morehouse 23
East Baton Rouge 22
Terrebonne 22
Lincoln 19
Rapides 18

Conclusion

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.

Additional References

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.