Mississippi has some of the highest rates of sexually transmitted diseases and infections, placing in the top 10 for chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and HIV. Not only does the state have relatively high rates of several common STDs, Mississippi has seen rates of most infections rise in recent years. But Mississippi is not alone. In fact, the United States has seen four straight years of increasing national rates in chlamydia, primary and secondary syphilis and gonorrhea.
Which sexually transmitted diseases and infections are most common in the state of Mississippi, how have rates of certain STDs changed over time, and which locales across the state have the highest concentrations of infections? To better understand the STD crisis in Mississippi, we’ll explore data from the Mississippi State Department of Health and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Chlamydia Rates in Mississippi
Mississippi has the third-highest rate of chlamydia in the United States after adjusting for population differences. Mississippi’s population-adjusted chlamydia rate is more than 34% higher than the overall U.S. rate, though it’s just over 11% lower than that of U.S.-leading Alaska.
Chlamydia infections per 100,000 people
Mississippi’s chlamydia rate has risen for four of the past five years, and it’s climbed more than 20% over the past half-decade.
Mississippi chlamydia rate by year (cases per 100,000 people)
Six of the 10 states with the highest chlamydia rates are in the South, and Mississippi ranks second in the region, with a rate that’s only about 4% lower than that of neighboring Louisiana.
Chlamydia infection rate, Southern states (cases per 100,000 people)
Gonorrhea Rates in Mississippi
Gonorrhea is more prevalent in Mississippi than in any other state in the nation, and Mississippi’s population-adjusted rate is more than 80% higher than the overall U.S. rate.
Gonorrhea infections per 100,000 people
Mississippi’s gonorrhea rate has risen every year since 2013, nearly doubling in just the past five years.
Mississippi gonorrhea rate by year (cases per 100,000 people)
Only two non-Southern states are in the top 10 for gonorrhea prevalence. Mississippi’s rate is more than four times higher than the Southern state with the lowest rate, West Virginia.
Gonorrhea infection rate, Southern states (cases per 100,000 people)
Syphilis Rates in Mississippi
Mississippi ranks No. 10 nationally, though the state’s rate is only about 5% higher than the overall rate for the United States.
Primary and secondary syphilis infections per 100,000 people
Despite a slight decline between 2016 and 2017, syphilis rates have skyrocketed in Mississippi since 2013, with the rate jumping by more than 280% in that time.
Mississippi primary and secondary syphilis rate by year (cases per 100,000 people)
Six Southern states rank among the 10 states with the highest rates of primary and secondary syphilis, and Mississippi places in the top half of the region.
Primary and secondary syphilis infection rates, Southern states (cases per 100,000 people)
HIV & Other STD Rates in Mississippi
More than 420 people were newly diagnosed with HIV in Mississippi in 2017, giving the state a population-adjusted rate that puts Mississippi at No. 9 among the 50 states. However, the state managed to post a slight drop in the HIV rate between 2016 and 2017. See also HIV test options.
Hepatitis B & C
Acute infections of hepatitis B are about as common in Mississippi as they are overall in the United States, but Mississippi has managed to bring its rate down, while the U.S. rate has climbed. Acute hep C statistics have not been reported by Mississippi over the past several years. See also hepatitis test options.
Mississippi has the third-highest rate of cancer cases related to human papillomavirus, or HPV. The most common STD in the world, HPV is notoriously difficult to diagnose because few infected people ever show symptoms. But HPV also happens to be a leading cause of many types of cancer, including cervical, penile and anal cancers. Those types of cancer occur at a population-adjusted rate of 14.4 per 100,000 in Mississippi, higher than the overall U.S. median of 11.7 per 100,000. See also HPV test options.
STDs in Mississippi Cities & Counties
Mississippi’s position at or near the top of most STD lists is due in part to the high concentration of sexually transmitted diseases and infections in heavily populated cities and metro areas, such as the Jackson-Yazoo City and Gulfport-Biloxi areas.
More than 2 in 5 chlamydia cases in Mississippi are diagnosed in people living in the Jackson-Yazoo City metro area, while the Gulfport-Biloxi area adds another 10%.
Mississippi counties by chlamydia infection rate (cases per 100,000 people), top 10
Jackson-Yazoo City accounts for more than 20% of gonorrhea cases, and more than 12% come from Gulfport-Biloxi.
Mississippi counties by gonorrhea infection rate (cases per 100,000 people), top 10
Primary and secondary syphilis
More than 40% of primary and secondary syphilis infections in the state are diagnosed in people living in the Jackson-Yazoo City or Gulfport-Biloxi metro areas.
Mississippi counties by primary and secondary syphilis infection rate (cases per 100,000 people), top 10
Mississippi has some of the highest rates of sexually transmitted diseases of all 50 states. And in most cases, rates are on the rise, which could signal a growing epidemic in our state. But there are reasons for hope. Not all rates are climbing, and even the ones that are climbing don’t seem to be rising out of control. Bringing down the prevalence of STDs would benefit everybody in our state, and it’s up to each individual person to do their part. For sexually active people, even those in monogamous relationships, that means getting themselves tested so they can find out their STD status. The truth is that almost all sexually active individuals will contract at least one STD in their lifetimes, so the only shame is in not knowing that you have an STD and unwittingly furthering the spread of a serious disease.
- Mississippi State Department of Health, STD/HIV Data and Statistics. (Undated). Retrieved from https://msdh.ms.gov/msdhsite/_static/14,0,150,807.html
- 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, 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, 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.