Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are becoming more common across the United States and right here in Ohio. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that for the fourth straight year, in 2017, prevalence of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and primary and secondary syphilis climbed in the U.S., and that trend largely tracks with increases in the same STDs in Ohio.

Where does Ohio rank nationally when it comes to STD prevalence, how have those diseases changed in Ohio in the past few years, and where in our state are STDs most common? To better understand the state of sexual health in Ohio, let’s look at data from the CDC and the Ohio Department of Health.

Note: Ohio recently published its 2018 STD data for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and primary and secondary syphilis, but data for the remainder of the states have yet to be published by the CDC, so in some cases, we are comparing 2018 data for Ohio to 2017 data for other states. In the case of chlamydia and gonorrhea, Ohio’s rates have increased, though not by very dramatic amounts. Still, when the full national dataset is released, it’s possible the state’s rankings could shift here or there.

Chlamydia Rates in Ohio

Ohio ranks eighth out of all states in sheer numbers of chlamydia infections, but after adjusting for population size, the state falls slightly, though it’s still in the top 20 for chlamydia infection rate.

Chlamydia infections per 100,000 people, top 20

Alaska 799.8
Louisiana 742.4
Mississippi 707.6
New Mexico 651.6
South Carolina 649.8
Georgia 631.4
North Carolina 619.7
Alabama 615.5
New York 591.6
Illinois 589.9
Arkansas 579.6
Arizona 571.3
Delaware 566.3
California 557.4
Maryland 555.4
Oklahoma 554.4
Nevada 553.1
Texas 543.9
Ohio 543.4
Missouri 536.4
Total 528.8

In addition to its place among the 20 states with the highest rates of chlamydia, Ohio has seen prevalence of the disease rise over the past several years, climbing nearly 20% since 2012.

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

2012 460.3
2013 459.1
2014 468.4
2015 489.9
2016 521.8
2017 526.8
2018 543.4

Ohio has the second-highest rate of chlamydia in the Midwest.

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

Illinois 589.9
Ohio 543.3
Missouri 536.4
Indiana 516.8
South Dakota 512.7
Michigan 509.6
Wisconsin 480
Kansas 466.2
Nebraska 450.7
Iowa 443.2
North Dakota 432.5
Minnesota 426.4

 Gonorrhea Rates in Ohio

Ohio’s population-adjusted rate of gonorrhea infections is ninth in the nation, and the state reported more than 25,000 cases in 2018.

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
North Carolina 225.4
Arkansas 224.5
Georgia 219.8
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 is becoming more common all across the country, and the same is true in Ohio, where the gonorrhea rate has gone up by more than 50% since 2012.

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

2012 142.9
2013 143.6
2014 138.3
2015 143.1
2016 176.8
2017 205.8
2018 216.3

Ohio has the highest rate of gonorrhea in the Midwest, just ahead of Missouri, though, again, it’s important to note that the state’s placement may change once every other state in the region releases its 2018 data.

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

Ohio 216.3
Missouri 214.8
Illinois 186.4
Indiana 178.4
Michigan 158.6
Kansas 156.3
South Dakota 149.1
Nebraska 139.1
Wisconsin 132.6
North Dakota 127.4

Syphilis Rates in Ohio

Ohio’s rate of incidents of primary and secondary syphilis is near the middle nationally, and the 2018 data shows a substantial decline from 2017.

Primary and secondary syphilis infections per 100,000 people, top 30

Nevada 20
California 17.1
Louisiana 14.5
Georgia 14.4
Arizona 13.6
New York 11.9
Florida 11.6
North Carolina 11.2
Mississippi 10.4
Illinois 9.6
Maryland 9.5
Oklahoma 9.5
Washington 9.3
New Mexico 9.3
Alabama 8.7
Oregon 8.6
Missouri 8.3
Texas 8
Massachusetts 7.9
Arkansas 7.8
Tennessee 7.3
South Carolina 7.3
Rhode Island 6.7
Hawaii 6.6
Virginia 6.4
Ohio 6.3
Pennsylvania 6.2
Delaware 6
Kentucky 5.9
Total 9.5

While the state’s primary and secondary syphilis rate fell between 2017 and 2018, overall it’s nearly doubled since 2012.

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

2012 3.7
2013 3.8
2014 4.8
2015 4.9
2016 6.2
2017 7.2
2018 6.3

Ohio has the third-highest rate of primary and secondary syphilis infections in the Midwest, placing just ahead of North Dakota.

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

Illinois 9.6
Missouri 8.3
Ohio 6.3
North Dakota 5.8
Minnesota 5.3
Michigan 4.8
Indiana 4.8
Kansas 4.6
South Dakota 3.8
Iowa 3.2
Wisconsin 3
Nebraska 2.3

HIV & Other STD Rates in Ohio

HIV

More than 1,000 people were newly diagnosed with HIV in Ohio in 2017 (the most recent available year for HIV data), an increase of about 4% from 2016. The state’s HIV infection rate of 8.8 per 100,000 people is higher than the national median. See best HIV test options.

Hepatitis B & C

Ohio has some of the highest rates of acute infections of both hepatitis B and hepatitis C and rates of both have gone up since the rates observed a few years ago. Ohio ranks sixth overall for hep B infections with a rate of 2.6 per 100,000, more than twice the national rate and a 73% increase between 2013 and 2016, though the rate dipped between 2015 and 2016. For acute hep C cases, Ohio has the 13th highest rate in the U.S. at 1.6 per 100,000 people, about 38% higher than the national rate. The state’s hep C infection rate has increased more than 16-fold since 2012. See best HIV test options.

HPV

The most common STD in the world, human papillomavirus (HPV) also happens to be the primary cause of several types of cancers, including cervical, penile, anal and vulvar cancer. HPV-related cancer rates are higher than the national median in Ohio (12.7 per 100,000 vs. 11.7 per 100,000). See best HPV test options.

STDs in Ohio Cities & Counties

While Ohio varies in terms of prevalence of various STDs, certain areas of the state are more STD-prone than others, with Ohio’s metro areas accounting for an outsized percentage of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis.

Chlamydia

More than a third of all chlamydia infections in Ohio in 2018 occurred in Cincinnati, Cleveland or Columbus.

Ohio cities by chlamydia infection rate (cases per 100,000 people)

Cincinnati 2,268.8
Dayton 1,989.0
Cleveland 1,920.2
Lima 1,504.8
Canton 1,417.3
Youngstown 1,384.1
Akron 1,263.6
Toledo 1,106.0
Columbus 938.0

Gonorrhea

Almost 1 in 5 gonorrhea cases in Ohio in 2018 were diagnosed in the city of Columbus.

Ohio cities by gonorrhea infection rate (cases per 100,000 population)

Cincinnati 1,169.30
Dayton 1,020.20
Cleveland 878
Lima 767.2
Canton 671.3
Toledo 618.8
Youngstown 562
Columbus 492.9
Akron 465

Primary and secondary syphilis

Columbus accounted for nearly one-quarter of all diagnoses of primary or secondary syphilis in Ohio in 2018.

Ohio cities by primary and secondary syphilis infection rate (cases per 100,000 population)

Cincinnati 37.5
Dayton 35.6
Youngstown 23.2
Columbus 20.6
Cleveland 15
Akron 12.6
Toledo 10.5
Lima 8.1
Canton 5.6

Conclusion

Most sexually transmitted diseases are becoming more common in Ohio, but history tells us that most people who contract many of the most common STDs are never diagnosed and so they pass those diseases along to their sexual partners without even knowing. Depending on your risk level, it can be scary to think about finding out your STD status, but the good news is that most common STDs are easily treated and even the ones that can’t be cured outright often can be something you can live with.

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.