The state of Vermont boasts some of the lowest rates in the U.S. of several sexually transmitted diseases and infections, including HIV, chlamydia, syphilis and gonorrhea. In fact, Vermont has the lowest or second-to-lowest rates each of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and primary and secondary syphilis. But Vermont also has seen rates of some STDs climb in recent years, which is a trend that also can be seen on the national level. In fact, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis have risen for the past four consecutive years.
Which sexually transmitted infections are most prevalent here in Vermont, which states have the highest rates and how does Vermont compare, how have rates changed here over time, and which areas of the states are considered hotspots here in Vermont for STDs? To understand all that, we’ll take a look at data reported by the CDC.
Chlamydia Rates in Vermont
Vermont’s population-adjusted rate of chlamydia is 297.5, low enough for the state to rank at No. 49 among the 50 states. While Vermont’s rate is considerably lower than the overall U.S. rate (-43%), it’s still quite a bit higher than that of West Virginia, the state with the lowest rate.
Chlamydia infections per 100,000 people
Vermont’s chlamydia rate has been a bit of a rollercoaster over the past six years, rising and falling every other year. Today, the rate stands at just over 8% higher than the rate recorded in 2012.
Vermont chlamydia rate by year (cases per 100,000 people)
Among states in our region, only New York has a rate that’s both among the 10 highest and surpasses the overall U.S. rate. Vermont’s rate is low enough to be the lowest in the entire Northeast.
Chlamydia infection rate, Northeastern states (cases per 100,000 people)
Gonorrhea Rates in Vermont
Vermont boasts the single lowest rate among the 50 states for gonorrhea prevalence. Infections of the disease occur at a rate of just 32.5 per 100,000 in Vermont, which is lower than both the overall U.S. rate (-81%) and the rate posted by nation-leading Mississippi (-90%).
Gonorrhea infections per 100,000 people
The gonorrhea rate in Vermont has risen every year since 2015 and more than doubled between 2012 and 2017.
Vermont gonorrhea rate by year (cases per 100,000 people)
While no Northeastern state ranks among the top 10 nationally, one (New York) has a rate higher than the overall U.S. rate. Vermont’s rate is more than five times lower than New York’s.
Gonorrhea infection rate, Northeastern states (cases per 100,000 people)
Syphilis Rates in Vermont
Primary and secondary syphilis infections in Vermont occur at a rate of 2.1 per 100,000 people, the second-lowest rate in the United States. Vermont’s rate is well below both the U.S. national rate (-78%) and the rate posted by Nevada (-90%), which leads the nation.
Primary and secondary syphilis infections per 100,000 people
Five of the past six years have seen an increase in the syphilis rate in Vermont, and the rate has increased 110% since 2012.
Vermont primary and secondary syphilis rate by year (cases per 100,000 people)
New York is the only Northeastern state with a rate in the top 10; it’s also the only Northeastern state with a rate above the overall national level. Vermont’s rate, the lowest in the region, is about one-third lower than the next-highest rate, that recorded by Connecticut.
Primary and secondary syphilis infection rates, Northeastern states (cases per 100,000 people)
HIV & Other STD Rates in Vermont
While HIV is not very common in Vermont, the state did record a huge increase in prevalence between 2016 and 2017. In 2017, 19 people were newly diagnosed with HIV in Vermont, which seems like a very small number, and it is, but it also reflects an increase of 275% from the previous year, when just five people were diagnosed. Vermont’s increase was the largest in the country that year. See How to Test for HIV
Hepatitis B & C
Acute hepatitis B and hep C are both less common in Vermont than in the U.S. as a whole. Vermont’s rate for hep B is about 70% lower than the overall U.S. rate, and it’s fallen by 40% since 2015. The state’s hep C rate is about 20% lower than the national rate, but Vermont has seen that rate climb, more than tripling since 2015. See How to Test for Hepatitis
In addition to being the most common STD in the world, human papillomavirus, or HPV, also causes the large majority of several types of cancer, most famously cervical cancer. This virus is so common, in fact, that precisely pinpointing how many people have it at any given time is virtually impossible. But we can quantify the scope of untreated HPV by examining how often the virus leads to cancer. In Vermont, HPV causes cancer at a rate of about 10.6 per 100,000, lower than the overall U.S. rate of 11.7 per 100,000, and Vermont’s rate is 10th-lowest in the U.S. See How to Test for HPV
STDs in Vermont Cities & Counties
While Vermont mostly ranks among the states with the lowest rates of STDs, rates of several diseases vary widely across the state, and multiple cities in Vermont account for outsized percentages of cases.
About 2 in 5 chlamydia cases in Vermont occurred in the Burlington metro area, and Claremont-Lebanon, an area that includes counties in New Hampshire, accounted for another 13% of chlamydia cases in Vermont.
Vermont counties by chlamydia infection rate (cases per 100,000 people), top 10
Burlington accounted for more than half of all gonorrhea cases in the state in 2017.
Vermont counties by gonorrhea infection rate (cases per 100,000 people), top 10
Primary and secondary syphilis
Nearly 1 in 3 syphilis cases were diagnosed in people in the Burlington area, and Claremont-Lebanon added 22%, with the city of Rutland contributing another 9%.
Vermont counties by primary and secondary syphilis infection rate (cases per 100,000 people), top 10
Vermont may be a shining example of sexual health, with the state having the lowest or second-lowest rates of syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia. But with most STDs, including HIV, seeing their rates grow in our state, now is not the time to get complacent. Did you know that almost everyone who is sexually active will contract at least one STD at some point in their lives? Or that the majority of people with STDs do not know they have any infections? That’s why helping keep STD rates low means getting yourself tested so that you can ensure you’re not unwittingly spreading infections.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, NCHHSTP AtlasPlus. (Undated). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nchhstp/atlas/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, 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, 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.