When it comes to the prevalence of several common sexually transmitted diseases and infections, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and primary and secondary syphilis, Maine generally is not among the states with high rates. But that could change. That’s because, much like the rest of the U.S., most STD rates are on the rise here in Maine.
How have rates of sexually transmitted diseases changed here in Maine over time, which are the most common today, how does Maine measure up against the rest of the 50 states, and which areas of Maine are the biggest hotspots for STDs? To understand the picture of sexual health in our state, we’ll turn to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Chlamydia Rates in Maine
Maine boasts the fourth-lowest population-adjusted rate of chlamydia cases among all 50 states, and Maine’s rate is more than one-third lower than the overall U.S. rate. Still, there’s a large gulf between Maine’s rate and that of West Virginia, which has the lowest rate in the U.S.
Chlamydia infections per 100,000 people
Maine might have a relatively low rate of chlamydia today, but the numbers are moving in the wrong direction. The chlamydia rate has risen here every year since 2013 and has climbed by more than 33% since 2012.
Maine chlamydia rate by year (cases per 100,000 people)
New York is the only Northeastern state with a chlamydia rate that’s among the 10 highest in the nation, and Maine ranks near the very bottom of the region.
Chlamydia infection rate, Northeastern states (cases per 100,000 people)
Gonorrhea Rates in Maine
Maine has the third-lowest gonorrhea rate in the country, and the state is one of only nine with gonorrhea rates that are below 100 per 100,000 people. Maine’s gonorrhea rate is nearly four times lower than the overall U.S. rate and almost seven times lower than that of Mississippi, which has the nation’s highest rate.
Gonorrhea infections per 100,000 people
Maine had been recording declines in the gonorrhea rate until 2015, and the rate has climbed every year since then. The gonorrhea rate rose here by more than 160% between 2014 and 2017.
Maine gonorrhea rate by year (cases per 100,000 people)
Only one Northeastern state, New York, ranks in the top 25 for gonorrhea rates, and Maine comes in near the bottom of the region.
Gonorrhea infection rate, Northeastern states (cases per 100,000 people)
Syphilis Rates in Maine
Maine’s rate of primary and secondary syphilis infections is low enough that the state ranks No. 36 overall, and the rate is just over half the overall U.S. rate.
Primary and secondary syphilis infections per 100,000 people, bottom 20
The prevalence of syphilis in Maine has risen every year since 2013, and it’s gone up by more than 270% since 2012.
Maine primary and secondary syphilis rate by year (cases per 100,000 people)
New York is the only Northeastern state that both ranks in the top 10 nationally and has a syphilis rate that eclipses the overall U.S. rate. Maine’s rate is higher than only three other Northeastern states.
Primary and secondary syphilis infection rates, Northeastern states (cases per 100,000 people)
HIV & Other STD Rates in Maine
Just under 30 people were newly diagnosed with HIV in Maine in 2017, which gives the state a population-adjusted rate that’s the second-lowest in the country. In addition to having a very low rate of HIV, Maine also has made great progress against the virus, recording a 45% decline in the rate since 2016. See also HIV test options.
Hepatitis B & C
Acute infections of hepatitis B and hepatitis C are both much more common in Maine than in the nation as a whole, though the rates of both have varied widely in recent years. Maine’s rate of acute hep B is four times higher than the national rate, and it’s surged recently, jumping by more than 450% between 2015 and 2016. Acute hep C is about twice as common in Maine as the rest of the U.S., and while the rate has varied most years, the state did see a 17% decline in 2016. See also hepatitis test options.
HPV leads to more cancer cases in Maine than in the average U.S. state. Maine’s rate of HPV-caused cancer is 13 per 100,000, higher than the national median of 11.7 per 100,000. HPV, or human papillomavirus, in addition to being the most common STD in the world, causes the vast majority of multiple types of cancer, including anal, cervical and penile. See also HPV test options.
STDs in Maine Cities & Counties
Most STDs are considerably less common in Maine than in the U.S. as a whole, but a couple of metro areas account for large percentages of cases and rates vary widely by county.
The Portland metro area accounted for nearly 40% of all chlamydia cases, and Bangor added another nearly 13%.
Maine counties by chlamydia infection rate (cases per 100,000 people), top 10
Nearly 1 in 2 gonorrhea cases in Maine occurred in people living in the Portland metro area, and Bangor added another nearly 10%.
Maine counties by gonorrhea infection rate (cases per 100,000 people), top 10
Primary and secondary syphilis
Portland and Bangor combined to account for nearly 7 in 10 of all primary and secondary syphilis cases in Maine.
Maine counties by primary and secondary syphilis infection rate (cases per 100,000 people)
Maine may not be among the states with the very highest rates of several common sexually transmitted diseases and infections. But that may not always be the case since so many STDs have seen their rates rise, some by huge percentages, in recent years. Still, as the state’s progress against HIV has shown, it is possible to bring these rates down over time, and one of the best ways to do that is to get yourself tested. After all, most people who pass along STDs are not aware they are infected, and if you are infected and you get tested, you can be sure to take precautions every time you have sex to avoid spreading STDs.
- 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, 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
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.