Sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs, are on the rise in the state of Oklahoma and across the United States. In fact, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. has recorded four straight years of increases in the national rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and primary and secondary syphilis. Not only are the rates of most STDs rising in Oklahoma, the state already has some of the highest rates of STDs in the country.
Which sexually transmitted diseases and infections are Oklahomans most at risk of contracting, how has prevalence of STDs changed in our state over time, and what geographic differences can be noted when digging down into city- and county-level data? To answer all these questions, we’ll examine CDC data as well as information from the Oklahoma State Department of Health.
Chlamydia Rates in Oklahoma
More than 21,000 people were diagnosed with chlamydia in Oklahoma in 2017, placing the state 26th among all states when counting sheer numbers. But after adjusting for population differences, Oklahoma rises to 16th, and the state’s chlamydia rate is about 5% higher than the overall U.S. rate.
Chlamydia infections per 100,000 people
Chlamydia has been rising in prevalence in Oklahoma, with the population-adjusted rate of the disease climbing more than 25% between 2012 and 2017.
Oklahoma chlamydia rate by year (cases per 100,000 people)
Six of the 10 states with the highest chlamydia rates are in the South, and Oklahoma ranks in the bottom half of the region. Oklahoma’s rate is about 25% lower than regional leader Louisiana.
Chlamydia infection rate, Southern states (cases per 100,000 people)
Gonorrhea Rates in Oklahoma
Oklahoma’s gonorrhea rate is sixth-highest in the nation after adjusting for differences in population. The state’s rate is nearly 35% higher than the overall national rate.
Gonorrhea infections per 100,000 people
Gonorrhea frequency in Oklahoma has gone up every year since 2012, nearly doubling in that time.
Oklahoma gonorrhea rate by year (cases per 100,000 people)
Eight Southern states are among the top 10 nationally, and Oklahoma is in the top half of the region.
Gonorrhea infection rate, Southern states (cases per 100,000 people)
Syphilis Rates in Oklahoma
Oklahoma ranks No. 12 among the 50 states for the rate of primary and secondary syphilis, though the state’s rate is equal to the overall national rate.
Primary and secondary syphilis infections per 100,000 people
The prevalence of primary and secondary syphilis, the two earliest stages of syphilis, has exploded in Oklahoma over the past half-decade, with the rate climbing more than 330% between 2012 and 2017.
Oklahoma primary and secondary syphilis rate by year (cases per 100,000 people)
Six of the 10 states with the highest syphilis rates are in the South, and Oklahoma ranks near the middle of the region.
Primary and secondary syphilis infection rates, Southern states (cases per 100,000 people)
HIV & Other STD Rates in Oklahoma
More than 300 people were newly diagnosed with HIV in Oklahoma in 2017, and the state’s population-adjusted rate places it among the 25 states with the lowest rates of the virus. But Oklahoma’s HIV rate has gone up, rising 3% between 2016 and 2017. See How to Test for HIV
Hepatitis B & C
Acute infections of both hepatitis B and hepatitis C occur at rates near the overall national rate in Oklahoma. But both viral infections have seen their rates in Oklahoma decline over the past few years. Hep B has dropped by nearly 62%, while hep C rates have fallen by a similar amount. See How to Test for Hepatitis
Detailing exactly how many people in Oklahoma are infected with human papillomavirus, the most common STD in the world, is difficult because so few people are ever diagnosed. But looking at cancers related to HPV can help focus attention on how common untreated HPV is, since several cancers are caused mainly by HPV, including cervical, penile and anal cancer. HPV-related cancer occurs in Oklahoma at a rate of 13.2 per 100,000, higher than the national median of 11.7 per 100,000. See How to Test for HPV
STDs in Oklahoma Cities & Counties
Oklahoma’s position among the leaders in multiple STDs is driven largely by just a few locales across the state, including Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Lawton.
Tulsa and Oklahoma City account for nearly two-thirds of all chlamydia cases in Oklahoma, though some counties not in either metro area have higher rates than others.
Oklahoma counties by chlamydia infection rate (cases per 100,000 people), top 10
The Oklahoma City metro area accounted for more than 1 in 3 gonorrhea cases in the state, and the metro has the 14th-highest prevalence of gonorrhea among all major U.S. metro areas.
Oklahoma counties by gonorrhea infection rate (cases per 100,000 people), top 10
Primary and secondary syphilis
Nearly 2 in 3 of all infections of primary and secondary syphilis in Oklahoma were diagnosed in people residing in the Oklahoma City metro area, and the area ranks 10th out of all major U.S. metro areas for syphilis prevalence.
Oklahoma counties by primary and secondary syphilis infection rate (cases per 100,000 people)
Oklahoma’s picture of STD-related health is largely negative and seems to be getting worse. The state ranks among the leaders when it comes to the prevalence of several sexually transmitted diseases and infections, and rates are generally climbing for most of the diseases we’ve examined. But progress can be made, and one of the best ways to do that is to get yourself tested so that you are aware of your STD status. Most sexually active people will contract an STD at some point in their lives, and there’s no shame in having one. But ensuring that you do your part to stem the tide of STDs in Oklahoma means finding out your status so that you can get treated, if possible, and avoid passing your infections along to others.
- Oklahoma State Department of Health, HIV/STD Service, Fact Sheets, OK Data. (Undated). Retrieved from https://www.ok.gov/health/Prevention_and_Preparedness/HIV_STD_Service/Fact_Sheets_-_OK_Data/
- 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, Surveillance for Viral Hepatitis – United States, 2016. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/statistics/2016surveillance/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, Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance 2017. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/std/stats17/SRtables.pdf
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.