The state of Virginia routinely ranks in the middle of the pack when it comes to prevalence of common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and while the state has made progress in combating some diseases, rates of several common STDs, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis, have risen here in Virginia over the past few years. This matches a broader national trend that’s seen prevalence of all three STDs rise for four consecutive years.
Which STDs are most frequent in the commonwealth, how have rates changed over time, and how to various geographic areas in the commonwealth vary when it comes to STD rates? We’ll examine federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Virginia Department of Health statistics.
Chlamydia Rates in Virginia
More than 42,000 people were diagnosed with chlamydia in Virginia in 2017, the most recent year for which data is available. While that’s a number large enough to place the commonwealth 11th of all states, an adjustment for population size drops Virginia into the bottom half of the states with an adjusted rate about 7% lower than the rate for the entire country.
Chlamydia infections per 100,000 people
Chlamydia rates in Virginia have risen steadily since 2013 and have surged nearly 50% over the past decade.
Virginia chlamydia rate by year (cases per 100,000 people)
Six of the 10 states with the highest chlamydia rates are in the South, but Virginia’s rate puts the commonwealth near the bottom of its regional neighbors.
Chlamydia infection rate, Southern states (cases per 100,000 people)
Gonorrhea Rates in Virginia
Virginia ranks in the bottom half of the nation in the population-adjusted rate of new gonorrhea infections, but the state has seen a recent resurgence in this common STD.
Gonorrhea infections per 100,000 people
The rate of gonorrhea in Virginia has gone up every year since 2011 and has risen more than 62% over the past decade.
Virginia gonorrhea rate by year (cases per 100,000 people)
The South is home to eight of the 10 states with the highest rates of gonorrhea in the country, but Virginia has the second-lowest gonorrhea rate of any Southern state.
Gonorrhea infection rate, Southern states (cases per 100,000 people)
Syphilis Rates in Virginia
Virginia’s rate of infections of primary or secondary syphilis is about 36% lower than the national level, putting the state in the bottom half of syphilis prevalence.
Primary and secondary syphilis infections per 100,000 people
Rates of primary and secondary syphilis have risen for the past few years in Virginia and have very nearly doubled over the past 10 years.
Virginia primary and secondary syphilis rate by year (cases per 100,000 people)
Half of the states with the 10 highest rates of primary and secondary syphilis infections are in the South, but Virginia is tied with Delaware for the third-lowest rate in the region.
Primary and secondary syphilis infection rates, Southern states (cases per 100,000 people)
HIV & Other STD Rates in Virginia
Nearly 1,000 people were newly diagnosed with HIV in Virginia in 2017 for a population adjusted rate of 10.3 per 100,000 people, below the national infection rate of 11.8. The commonwealth recorded a slight decline of about 5% in the HIV infection rate between 2016 and 2017. See How to Test for HIV
Hepatitis B & C
Both hepatitis B and hepatitis C are less common in Virginia than nationally, and the commonwealth has recorded declines in the rate of acute hep B and acute hep C infections in recent years. Virginia’s acute hep B rate is about 30% lower than the national rate and has fallen by about the same amount since 2012. For cases of acute hep C, Virginia’s rate is half that of the nation overall and has fallen by more than 40% since 2012. See How to Test for Hepatitis
Human papillomavirus, in addition to being the most common STD worldwide, also is the most common cause of cancer in several parts of the body, including the cervix, penis, anus and vulva, among others. Because the STD is so prevalent and so rarely exhibits symptoms, exact estimates of how prevalent it is at any given time are difficult to come by, but the CDC does report data on HPV-related cancers, and Virginia has among the lowest rates of those types of cancer in the nation (10.9 per 100,000 in Virginia vs. 11.7 per 100,000 nationally). See How to Test for HPV
STDs in Virginia Cities & Counties
While Virginia as a whole ranks among the best states nationally for its population-adjusted rates of several common STDs, there are huge geographical variations in the prevalence of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and primary and secondary syphilis.
Eastern Virginia accounted for about a third of all chlamydia cases in 2017, though not all the locales with the highest rates are in that region of the commonwealth.
Virginia cities and counties by chlamydia infection rate (cases per 100,000 people), top 10
More than 2 in 3 gonorrhea cases in Virginia took place in the central or eastern region of the commonwealth.
Virginia cities and counties by gonorrhea infection rate (cases per 100,000 people), top 10
Primary and secondary syphilis
More than 86% of syphilis cases in Virginia occurred in the central, northern and northeastern parts of the state in 2017.
Virginia cities and counties by syphilis infection rate (cases per 100,000 people)*
|Prince George Co.||39.7|
* Data from Virginia varies slightly from national data because Virginia includes early latent syphilis
Virginia ranks near the middle or bottom in most measures of how frequent sexually transmitted disease are nationally. But as the increases in almost all STD rates have shown, including her in Virginia, now is not the time for complacency. Individuals can help push down the rates of STDs in Virginia by engaging in responsible practices, including getting themselves tested for a range of STDs.
- Virginia Department of Health, Disease Prevention, STD Annual Reports. (Undated). Retrieved from http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/disease-prevention/std-annual-reports/
- 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
- 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
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.