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

Highest
Alaska 799.8
Louisiana 742.4
Mississippi 708.7
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
New Hampshire 330.5
Utah 323.7
Vermont 297.5
West Virginia 226.1

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)

2013 581.4
2014 580.2
2015 672.2
2016 673
2017 708.7

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)

Louisiana 742.4
Mississippi 708.7
South Carolina 649.8
Georgia 623.7
Alabama 615.5
North Carolina 612.2
Maryland 586.3
Arkansas 576.7
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 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

Highest
Mississippi 310
Alaska 295.1
Louisiana 256.7
South Carolina 254.4
Alabama 245.7
Oklahoma 231.4
Arkansas 223.5
North Carolina 220.9
Georgia 217.5
Ohio 216.3
Total 171.9
Lowest
Rhode Island 102.9
Hawaii 95.1
Utah 81.2
Montana 75
West Virginia 70.8
Wyoming 70.4
Idaho 58.6
Maine 46.6
New Hampshire 38.4
Vermont 32.5

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)

2013 170.5
2014 192.9
2015 239.2
2016 239.5
2017 310

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)

Mississippi 310
Louisiana 256.7
South Carolina 254.4
Alabama 245.7
Oklahoma 231.4
Arkansas 223.5
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 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

Highest
Nevada 19.7
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
Total 9.5
Lowest
Utah 3.7
West Virginia 3.4
New Hampshire 3.2
Connecticut 3.1
Wisconsin 3
Iowa 2.7
Nebraska 2.3
Vermont 2.1
Alaska 1.8
Wyoming 0.7

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)

2013 2.6
2014 7.3
2015 11
2016 11
2017 10

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)

Georgia 14.5
Louisiana 14.5
Maryland 12.2
Florida 11.6
North Carolina 10.6
Mississippi 10
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 Mississippi

HIV

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.

HPV

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.

Chlamydia

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

Tunica 1,895.5
Coahoma 1,710.3
Quitman 1,568.3
Leflore 1,543.3
Washington 1,386.8
Claiborne 1,385.5
Holmes 1,330.4
Hinds 1,276.8
Noxubee 1,117.1
Sharkey 1,104.8

Gonorrhea

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

Washington 820
Coahoma 729.9
Tunica 728.3
Leflore 657
Forrest 571.1
Hinds 554.9
Holmes 541.2
Chickasaw 513.2
Lee 509.8
Quitman 495.3

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

Coahoma 34.6
Winston 32.9
Washington 28.1
Lauderdale 24.9
Forrest 23.9
Claiborne 22.3
Hinds 21.7
Yazoo 18.5
Harrison 18
Union 17.5

Conclusion

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.

Additional References

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.