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Baltimore City STD infection rates are seriously skewing statewide estimates.

New data released by the Maryland Department of Health shows that the rates of STD infections in Baltimore City are so high, that the state is now the 18th worst in the country for STD infection rates. Without Baltimore City, Maryland would actually have the 16th or 17th best STD infection rate in the country.

Every year federal and state health agencies release data showing the previous year’s sexually transmitted disease (STD) diagnoses. Those numbers are then used to rank states in terms of STD infection rates and allocate the appropriate resources during the next fiscal year.

In 2015, Maryland ranked as the 24th worst state for STD infections — basically middle of the road — for its Chlamydia and Gonorrhea infection rates. However, the 2016 numbers just came out and things are not looking good. Maryland now has the 18th worst STD infection rate in the entire country, jumping six whole spots in just one year. That is the worst change of any state in the country.

Is there an STD epidemic in Maryland? We turned to the data.

The Maryland Department of Health releases the annual statistics and does a really good job at explaining where statistics come from. When it comes to infection rates, the Department of Health releases three different sets of geographic statistics: infection totals and rates statewide, in Baltimore City, and everywhere in the state but Baltimore City.

That delineation shows just how much Baltimore City’s STD rates are dragging down the state in the rankings.

As we can see from the 2016 Chlamydia data above, the State of Maryland — as a whole — has a Chlamydia infection rate of 509.6 cases per 100,000 residents. Baltimore City, however, has a Chlamydia infection rate of 1,192.1 cases per 100,000 residents. Without Baltimore, the state would have one of the lowest Chlamydia infection rates.

Turning to Gonorrhea, the data doesn’t get any better. The state with the worst Gonnorhea infection rate in the entire country is Mississippi, with 239.2 infections per 100,000 residents. Baltimore City alone had a 2016 Gonorrhea infection rate of 569.8, which is more than twice Mississippi’s rate.

If Baltimore was a state, not only would it have the worst sexually transmitted disease rate, but no other state would even come close.

Across the country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has noticed a significant uptick in STD infections, both as a raw number and as a percentage of the population. While it is too early to deduce the reason for this nationwide increase, previous studies have noticed that cities and states that are home to military bases tend to see above-average sexually transmitted disease infection rates. In Virginia, the highest concentration of STD contractions occur in and around Norfolk, which is home to not just a major Naval base, but also an Air Force base nearby as well.

Even with this divide between Baltimore City and the rest of the state, STD infection rates increased in most of Maryland’s counties. While one city is skewing statewide numbers and, as a result, the nationwide rankings, STD infection rates are getting worse.

The Maryland Department of Health’s Center for Sexually Transmitted Infection Prevention is currently analyzing the data and will continue to produce policy recommendations to the state government. However, if this early analysis is any indication, most of those resources will probably be directed towards 15-24 year olds in the City of Baltimore.

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