A recent study says Philadelphia ranks No. 3 among the top U.S. cities with the highest rate of sexually transmitted diseases.
The analysis, conducted by Innerbody, an online medical testing guide, used data from the Centers for Disease Control to create a list of the 100 cities with the highest STD rates. Baltimore, Maryland, had the highest number of STDs, followed by Jackson, Mississippi; Philadelphia; San Francisco, California, and Montgomery, Alabama. Nearly half of the top 100 cities with the highest STD rates are in the South.
“The CDC is reporting that STDs are on the rise across the United States,” said Eric Rodriquez, a co-director and managing editor for Innerbody.
“We’re particularly seeing STDs move quickly in the South and some of the bigger cities in the U.S.”
The Innerbody study included chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV and syphilis cases from the CDC’s Sexually Transmitted Surveillance Report released in October 2019.
According to the CDC, more than 2.4 million STD cases were reported across the U.S. in 2018 alone.
Philly reported a rate of 1,822 cases per 100,000 people in 2018. Chlamydia, which can cause infertility and pelvic inflammatory diseases, was the most commonly reported STD with 1.8 million cases. Philly saw 21,119 cases of chlamydia in 2018. Gonorrhea was the second-most commonly diagnosed STD in Philly, with a total of 7,288 cases. There were 499 HIV cases and 459 syphilis cases reported in the city.
These findings come as no surprise to Gary Bell, executive director of Bebashi-Transition to Hope, a Philadelphia-based sexual health organization.
“It doesn’t surprise me because our rates have been high for some time,” he said.
“We’ve had federal cuts in funding to address sexually transmitted diseases. It isn’t as if the issue has gotten easier or smaller, yet we have fewer resources to address it.”
Gary says a comprehensive plan is needed to help prevent the spread of STDs in Philadelphia. He suggests that the local school district, health department, government agencies and nonprofit organizations collaborate to work on the problem.
“It would really take pooling our resources. It would really take organizations working together to combat this,” he said.
Meanwhile, Rodriquez says many people don’t know that they have an STD, which is a factor in increasing transmission rates.
“People are not getting tested as frequently as they need to be and so many people currently have an STD but don’t necessarily know it,” he said.
“It’s really hard to prevent the spread if you don’t know you have it. You’re not able to talk to your partner and you’re not able to treat it.”