New Mexico has some of the highest rates of sexually transmitted diseases and infections of any state in the country. In fact, the state ranks in or near the top quarter for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and primary and secondary syphilis. Not only does New Mexico have high STD rates relative to most states, the rates of sexually transmitted infections are mostly on the rise here in New Mexico. But New Mexico is not alone. That’s because, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. as a whole has recorded four straight years of rising rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis.

Which STDs are most common here in New Mexico, how have their prevalence in the population changed over time, and which areas of the state are most prone to high numbers of sexually transmitted diseases and infections? To understand the state of STDs in New Mexico, we’ll examine information from the CDC as well as the New Mexico Department of Health.

Chlamydia Rates in New Mexico

New Mexico ranks No. 5 among all 50 states for its population-adjusted rate of chlamydia infections. New Mexico’s rate is nearly 22% higher than the overall national rate for the United States.

Chlamydia infections per 100,000 people

Highest
Alaska 799.8
Louisiana 742.4
Mississippi 708.7
South Carolina 649.8
New Mexico 645
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

The chlamydia rate in New Mexico has risen every year since 2014 and has climbed more than 40% over the past decade.

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

2008 460
2009 466
2010 567
2011 547
2012 576
2013 584
2014 546
2015 602
2016 623
2017 645

The only Western state ahead of New Mexico is Alaska, which has the nation’s highest chlamydia rate. New Mexico’s rate is significantly lower than that of Alaska, but it’s nearly double Utah’s rate, which is the region’s lowest.

Chlamydia infection rate, Western states (cases per 100,000 people)

Alaska 799.8
New Mexico 645
Arizona 571.8
California 557.4
Nevada 544.7
Colorado 481.3
Hawaii 479.5
Oregon 450
Washington 444
Montana 437.4
Idaho 368.4
Wyoming 365.8
Utah 323.7

 Gonorrhea Rates in New Mexico

New Mexico sits in 12th nationally for the rate of gonorrhea infections in the population, and New Mexico’s rate is just under 25% 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
Missouri 214.8
New Mexico 214
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

Gonorrhea rates have been on an upward trend in New Mexico over the past decade, rising sharply in just the past few years. The rate has doubled since 2014 and has gone up by more than 300% since 2008.

New Mexico gonorrhea rate by year (cases per 100,000 people)

2008 53
2009 60
2010 88
2011 90
2012 90.3
2013 92
2014 107.7
2015 119.4
2016 167
2017 214

New Mexico has the West’s second-highest gonorrhea prevalence with a rate that’s nearly triple the state with the region’s lowest rate, Idaho.

Gonorrhea infection rate, Western states (cases per 100,000 people)

Alaska 295.1
New Mexico 214
California 192
Nevada 184.9
Arizona 180.5
Colorado 151.1
Washington 137.1
Oregon 121.3
Hawaii 95.1
Utah 81.2
Montana 75
Wyoming 70.4
Idaho 58.6

Syphilis Rates in New Mexico

New Mexico’s rate of primary and secondary syphilis infections is the 13th-highest in the U.S., and the state’s rate is barely behind the overall national rate.

Primary and secondary syphilis infections per 100,000 people, top 25

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
Illinois 9.6
Oklahoma 9.5
New Mexico 9.2
Washington 9.2
Alabama 8.7
Oregon 8.6
Missouri 8.3
Texas 8
Massachusetts 7.9
Arkansas 7.8
Alaska 7.6
Tennessee 7.3
South Carolina 7.3
Rhode Island 6.7
Hawaii 6.6
Total 9.5

The syphilis rate in New Mexico increased modestly between 2016 and 2017, but the rate saw several years of steady increases, and it’s risen more than 300% since 2008.

New Mexico primary and secondary syphilis rate by year (cases per 100,000 people)

2008 2.2
2009 3
2010 2.6
2011 3.4
2012 4.9
2013 3.7
2014 6
2015 5.6
2016 8.6
2017 9.2

Three of the 10 states with the highest syphilis rates are in the West, and New Mexico places fourth overall in the region.

Primary and secondary syphilis infection rates, Western states (cases per 100,000 people)

Nevada 19.7
California 17.1
Arizona 13.1
New Mexico 9.2
Washington 9.2
Oregon 8.6
Alaska 7.6
Hawaii 6.6
Colorado 5.2
Montana 4.6
Idaho 3.8
Utah 3.7
Wyoming 0.7

HIV & Other STD Rates in New Mexico

HIV

Nearly 120 people were newly diagnosed with HIV in New Mexico in 2017. The state’s population-adjusted rate puts New Mexico in 33rd among the 50 states, and, even more encouragingly, New Mexico’s HIV rate fell by about 17% between 2016 and 2017. See also HIV test options.

Hepatitis B & C

Acute infections of both hepatitis B and hepatitis C occur at lower rates in New Mexico than in the United States overall. Hep B virus infections have fallen to statistically insignificant levels, while hep C viral infections have fallen though are still relatively near the overall national rate. Hep C infections occur at a rate of about 0.9 per 100,000, compared to the national rate of 1 per 100,000. But the rate dropped here by about 53% between 2015 and 2016. See also hepatitis test options.

HPV

New Mexico has a relatively low rate of cancers caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). By far the most common STD in the world, HPV is also the leading cause of several types of cancer, including cervical, anal and penile cancers. Understanding the rate of cancers caused by HPV can help illustrate how serious untreated HPV is in a given state. New Mexico’s population adjusted rate of 9.8 per 100,000 is one of the lowest in the country and is below the overall national median of 11.7 per 100,000. See also HPV test options.

STDs in New Mexico Cities & Counties

While New Mexico has relatively high rates of many sexually transmitted diseases, the same can’t be said for every county across this vast state.

Chlamydia

A dozen counties have chlamydia rates higher than the state total.

New Mexico counties by chlamydia infection rate (cases per 100,000 people)

Highest
McKinley 904
Cibola 898
San Juan 865
Curry 782
Roosevelt 763
Chaves 748
Luna 748
Valencia 742
Bernalillo 726
Dona Ana 721
Rio Arriba 658
Hidalgo 657
Lowest
De Baca 377
Torrance 292
Lincoln 286
Union 282
Taos 279
Mora 261
Guadalupe 224
Sierra 221
Los Alamos 160
Catron 84

Gonorrhea

Seven counties have gonorrhea rates higher than the New Mexico total, including one (Cibola) where the rate is more than double the overall state rate.

New Mexico counties by gonorrhea infection rate (cases per 100,000 people)

Highest
Cibola 446
San Juan 335
Bernalillo 306
Quay 248
Curry 244
Roosevelt 237
Valencia 224
McKinley 191
Otero 182
Chaves 181
Lowest
Grant 103
Union 71
Hidalgo 68
Taos 58
Sierra 53
Catron 28
Lincoln 26
Mora 22
Guadalupe 22
Los Alamos 21

Primary and secondary syphilis

A dozen counties have higher rates of primary and secondary syphilis than the overall New Mexico rate, including Bernalillo, where Albuquerque is located.

New Mexico counties by primary and secondary syphilis infection rate (cases per 100,000 people)

Highest
McKinley 29
Bernalillo 23
Santa Fe 17
Colfax 16
Lea 14
San Juan 12
Dona Ana 12
Chaves 11
San Miguel 11
Roosevelt 10
Rio Arriba 10
Lincoln 10
Lowest
Torrance 6
Socorro 6
Taos 6
Eddy 5
Luna 4
Grant 4
Otero 3

Conclusion

New Mexico has among the nation’s highest rates of several different sexually transmitted diseases and infections, and those rates are mostly on the rise in our state. While those facts are certainly cause for concern, the truth is that bringing down STD rates is within everyone’s power. One of the reasons STDs spread so readily is that most people who have them aren’t aware of it and unknowingly pass their STDs along to their sexual partners. In fact, almost all sexually active people will contract an STD at some point in their lives, so getting yourself tested for STDs you’re most at risk of contracting means that not only can you get treated if you need to, you can stop the cycle of STDs by preventing them from being passed along to your sexual partners.

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.