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

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

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)

2012 275.4
2013 294
2014 357
2015 303.7
2016 269.9
2017 297.5

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)

New York 591.6
Rhode Island 500
Connecticut 496.3
Pennsylvania 441.5
Massachusetts 425.7
New Jersey 392
Maine 342.1
New Hampshire 330.5
Vermont 297.5

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

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
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

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)

2012 15.8
2013 15.5
2014 13.4
2015 24.8
2016 20.1
2017 32.5

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)

New York 172.7
Pennsylvania 119.2
Connecticut 109.4
Massachusetts 106.5
New Jersey 105.5
Rhode Island 102.9
Maine 46.6
New Hampshire 38.4
Vermont 32.5

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

Highest
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
Total 9.5
Lowest
Idaho 3.8
Utah 3.7
West Virginia 3.4
New Hampshire 3.2
Connecticut 3.1
Wisconsin 3
Iowa 2.7
Nebraska 2.3
Vermont 2.1
Wyoming 0.7

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)

2012 1
2013 0.5
2014 0.8
2015 1.4
2016 3.7
2017 2.1

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)

New York 11.9
Massachusetts 7.9
Rhode Island 6.7
Pennsylvania 6.2
New Jersey 5.6
Maine 4.9
New Hampshire 3.2
Connecticut 3.1
Vermont 2.1

HIV & Other STD Rates in Vermont

HIV

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

HPV

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.

Chlamydia

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

Washington 365.1
Chittenden 359.4
Orange 325.3
Orleans 247.2
Rutland 246.1
Bennington 228.5
Franklin 219.3
Windsor 215.3
Lamoille 206.1
Windham 195.9

Gonorrhea

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

Chittenden 34.1
Grand Isle 29.2
Franklin 26.6
Washington 23.9
Windham 20.7
Bennington 16.5
Rutland 15.1
Windsor 12.6
Orange 10.4
Addison 8.1

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

Grand Isle 14.6
Orange 10.4
Caledonia 6.5
Washington 5.1
Chittenden 4.3
Orleans 3.7
Windsor 3.6
Rutland 3.3
Addison 2.7
Windham 2.3

Conclusion

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.

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.