The state of sexual health in Utah is a mixed bag. On one hand, the state ranks among those with the lowest rates of several major sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and HIV. But on the other hand, the state has seen increases — some huge — in most STDs, which largely tracks with a trend that’s happening nationally. The U.S. has seen rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and primary and secondary syphilis climb for the past four straight years.

Which sexually transmitted infections and diseases are most common here in the state of Utah, how has the prevalence of certain STDs changed over the past decade, and which areas of the state are most prone to having high incidence of STDs? To answer those questions, we’ll examine data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the Utah Department of Health.

Chlamydia Rates in Utah

Utah’s population-adjusted rate of chlamydia infections is the third-lowest in the U.S., and it’s nearly 40% lower than the overall rate for the entire United States.

Chlamydia infections per 100,000 people

Highest
Alaska 799.8
Louisiana 742.4
Mississippi 707.6
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

Chlamydia has become more common in our state every year since 2014, though the rate has dropped from the rates recorded a decade ago.

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

2008 398.1
2009 405.3
2010 423.6
2011 453.4
2012 266.4
2013 258.4
2014 279.3
2015 287.9
2016 310
2017 323.7

Two Western region states are among the 10 states with the highest chlamydia rates, including overall No. 1, Alaska, a state that has a chlamydia rate that’s more than double Utah’s rate.

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

Alaska 799.8
New Mexico 651.6
Arizona 571.8
California 557.4
Nevada 553.1
Colorado 481.3
Hawaii 479.5
Oregon 450
Washington 442.2
Montana 437.4
Idaho 368.4
Wyoming 365.8
Utah 323.7

 Gonorrhea Rates in Utah

More than 2,500 people in Utah were newly diagnosed with gonorrhea in 2017, and the state’s population-adjusted rate places Utah in 43rd position nationally. Utah’s gonorrhea rate is less than half the U.S. rate.

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
Arkansas 224.5
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

Gonorrhea has basically exploded in Utah in recent years, with the disease growing every year since 2012. Utah has seen its gonorrhea rate jump more than eight-fold since 2011.

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

2008 17.9
2009 12.5
2010 11.2
2011 9.8
2012 16.9
2013 32.8
2014 48.9
2015 52.2
2016 68.8
2017 81.2

Regional gonorrhea leader Alaska also is the state with the highest rate of gonorrhea. Alaska’s rate is about three times higher than that of Utah.

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

Alaska 295.1
New Mexico 215.7
California 192
Nevada 187.8
Arizona 180.5
Colorado 151.1
Washington 136
Oregon 121.3
Hawaii 95.1
Utah 81.2
Montana 75
Wyoming 70.4
Idaho 58.6

Syphilis Rates in Utah

Utah ranks 41st among the 50 states for the population-adjusted rate of primary and secondary syphilis infections, and the state’s rate is only about one-third of the overall U.S. rate.

Primary and secondary syphilis infections per 100,000 people

Highest
Nevada 20
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 10.4
Total 9.5
Lowest
Utah 3.7
Idaho 3.8
West Virginia 3.4
Iowa 3.2
New Hampshire 3.2
Connecticut 3.1
Wisconsin 3
Nebraska 2.3
Vermont 2.1
Alaska 1.8
Wyoming 0.7

The syphilis rate has varied widely in Utah over the past several years, but it’s generally trending upward and stands at the highest point in a decade.

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

2008 0.9
2009 1.2
2010 2.3
2011 0.5
2012 1.5
2013 2.7
2014 1.7
2015 2.2
2016 3
2017 3.7

Three of the 10 states with the highest syphilis rates are in the West, and Utah has the third-lowest rate in the region, far behind regional and national leader Nevada, with a rate that’s more than 400% higher than Utah’s syphilis rate.

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

Nevada 20
California 17.1
Arizona 13.1
Washington 9.3
New Mexico 9.3
Oregon 8.6
Hawaii 6.6
Colorado 5.2
Montana 4.6
Idaho 3.8
Utah 3.7
Alaska 1.8
Wyoming 0.7

HIV & Other STD Rates in Utah

HIV

More than 115 people were newly diagnosed with HIV in Utah in 2017, placing the state at No. 44 nationally. In addition to being near the bottom when it comes to the prevalence of HIV, Utah also realized a huge decline in HIV between 2016 and 2017, with the population-adjusted rate falling by 18%. See How to Test for HIV

Hepatitis B & C

Utah has a lower rate of acute hepatitis B than the U.S. overall, with the national rate coming in at about four times Utah’s rate. Hep B has fluctuated widely in Utah in recent years, though it’s down about half from a high recorded in 2012. Acute hepatitis C, on the other hand, occurs in Utah at a rate more than double the national rate. Utah’s hep C rate also has climbed steadily, rising by more than 300% since 2012. See How to Test for Hepatitis

HPV

Utah’s rate of cancers related to human papillomavirus (HPV) is the lowest among all states at 8.1 per 100,000, compared to the national median of 11.7 per 100,000. It’s virtually impossible to know at any given time how many people have HPV because the virus is incredibly common (most sexually active people will get it) and very few people are ever diagnosed. But for those who have a high-risk strain of HPV and don’t get tested, the risk of several types of cancers, including cervical, penile and anal, is elevated, which is why examining the HPV-related cancer rate can help illustrate how widespread untreated HPV is in a given state. See How to Test for HPV

STDs in Utah Cities & Counties

While Utah as a whole is not among the national leaders in many of the STDs we’ve examined, certain parts of the state have far higher rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and primary and secondary syphilis.

Chlamydia

The Salt Lake City metro area accounted for more than 1 in 2 cases of chlamydia in Utah, and the city had the eighth-largest increase in chlamydia among all major U.S. metro areas between 2013 and 2017.

Utah public health districts by chlamydia infection rate (cases per 100,000 people)

Salt Lake County 466.1
San Juan County 390.7
Weber-Morgan 333
Davis County 324.2
Summit County 294.4
Tooele County 283.1
Southwest 238.4
Bear River 194
TriCounty 192.2
Utah County 191.6
Southeastern 174.8
Central 138.2
Wasatch County 112.1

Gonorrhea

Nearly one-third of gonorrhea infections in Utah were diagnosed in people living in the Salt Lake City metro area, and gonorrhea has increased by more than 130% over the past few years in Salt Lake City, the fourth-largest increase among any major cities.

Utah public health districts by gonorrhea infection rate (cases per 100,000 people)

Salt Lake County 142.2
Weber-Morgan 99.4
Tooele County 63.7
Davis County 52.1
San Juan County 45.6
Southeastern 42.5
Southwest 39
Utah County 32.3
Bear River 26.5
Wasatch County 21.8
TriCounty 19.6
Summit County 19.5
Central 15.1

Primary and secondary syphilis

Nearly 3 in 4 cases of primary and secondary syphilis in Utah in 2017 were diagnosed among individuals living in the Salt Lake City metro area.

Utah public health districts by primary and secondary syphilis infection rate (cases per 100,000 people)

Salt Lake County 7.6
Southwest 3.4
Weber-Morgan 1.5
Davis County 1.4
Utah County 1.3
San Juan County 0
Wasatch County 0
Summit 0
Central 0
Tooele County -
Southeastern -
Bear River -
TriCounty -

Conclusion

It would be easy to think sexually transmitted diseases are not a major problem in the state of Utah, given Utah’s position near the bottom of most lists of major STDs. But that ignores the major increases seen in several STDs across the state, and the surge of STDs reported in the Salt Lake City metro area. If individuals in Utah don’t take action to combat STDs, the problem will only grow. About half of sexually active people will contract an STD by the time they’re in their early to mid-20s, and most sexually active people will get at least one STD in their lifetimes. So a positive STD status is nothing to be ashamed of, and only once you know your status can you be sure you’re not passing infections 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.