DC Has The Highest Rates Of STDs in the nation

Photo Credit: Wenhao Ma

Residents in Washington, D.C. have the highest rates of sexually transmitted disease, compared to 50 states, according to a recent Center for Disease Control and Prevention report.

Out of the four kinds of STDs that the CDC report identified – chlamydia, gonorrhea, primary and secondary syphilis and congenital syphilis – the district scored No.1 in the first three by a large margin in 2016.

“It’s a data issue,” Tom Lalley , communications and community relations director of the city’s health department, wrote in an email when asked why Washington D.C. has the most STD cases. “D.C. is a city and the [CDC] study compared D.C. to states.”

He said the district has good screening efforts for STDs, which made asymptomatic diseases, such as chlamydia, easier to be found and reported.

For every 100,000 D.C. residents, 1,083 cases of chlamydia were reported. Alaska came in second with only 772 cases.

Similarly, the district had 480 cases of gonorrhea per 100,000 population, double the rate of Mississippi, which ranked second.

Although the rate of reported cases isn’t rising, the number of reported STD cases in DC has been on the top in the nation for years. For example, according to another CDC report, from 2008 to 2012, no other state had a higher rate than D.C. for chlamydia.

A 2017 D.C. Department of Health report shows that, between 2012 to 2016, more than half of the STDs cases were teens and young adults age 13 to 24. 


“We provide free and confidential STD screening in all public high schools,” Lalley wrote, explaining what the health department has been doing to address the issue. “We also support free and confidential screening for adolescents, young women and gay/bisexual men at community sites and for all persons at the D.C. Health and Wellness Center.”

High STD rates among young people are not just a problem in the district. The CDC report shows similar results nationwide.

The causes for high rates of young people getting STDs, the report states, could be “a combination of behavioral, biological, and cultural reasons.”

Barriers to accessing quality STD prevention and management plays a part in why adolescents and young adults are the high-risk group for STDs, according to the report. The barriers include: inability to pay for screenings, lack of transportation, long wait times, time conflicts between clinic hours and work and school schedules, embarrassment attached to seeking STD services, method of specimen collection, and concerns about confidentiality.

On the CDC’s website provides several suggestions to young people for preventing getting an STD:

  • Not having sex
  • Getting tested before having sex
  • Having only one sex partner; talking to parents
  • Talking to doctors
  • Getting STD testings
  • Talking to your partner
  • Avoid using alcohols and drugs

Nationwide, STDs cases are increasing across all age groups, according to the CDC. More than 2 million cases were reported in 2016, which is the highest in history. All STDs are curable, according to the CDC’s website, but if left undiagnosed and untreated, they are likely to cause serious health issues, such as infertility, life-threatening ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth in infants and increased risk for HIV transmission.

“Increases in STDs are a clear warning of a growing threat,” Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, said in a press release. “STDs are a persistent enemy, growing in number, and outpacing our ability to respond.”

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