How did these small cities get to the top of the U.S.'s STD rankings? The military

Elizabeth Howe
January 17, 2020 - 11:40 am
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released updated information on the prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases across the country. The CDC specifically looked at instances of chlamydia, HIV, syphilis, and gonorrhea. 

Three of the cities that came in in the top 10 were notably smaller than the other cities that ranked at the top. What did those three cities have in common? 

They were all home to military bases.

Innerbody, the largest publisher of medical and wellness testing materials online, researched the CDC's data to identify trends in the cities with the largest rates of STDs. The top ten cities with the highest rates of STDs (per 100,000 residents) were: 

  • Baltimore, Maryland (with 2,004 STD cases/100K)
  • Jackson, Mississippi (with 1,872 STD cases/100K)
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (with 1,822 STD cases/100K)
  • San Francisco, California (with 1,754 STD cases/100K)
  • Montgomery, Alabama (with 1,731 STD cases/100K)
  • Augusta, Georgia (with 1,675 STD cases/100K)
  • Milwaukee, Wisconsin (with 1,657 STD cases/100K)
  • Killeen, Texas (with 1,644 STD cases/100K)
  • Shreveport, Louisianna (with 1,615 STD cases/100K)
  • Indianapolis, Indiana (with 1,613 STD cases/100K)

They noted that Augusta, Killeen, and Shreveport were all relatively small compared to cities like Baltimore and San Francisco. So why were they ranked with the big kids? Innerbody suggested the military had something to do with it. 

"We also noticed that three of the top 10 cities are relatively small (Augusta, GA, Killeen TX, and Shreveport, LA), but share one thing in common: they are home to relatively large military bases," Innerbody's report read

Augusta is home to Fort Gordon, Killeen hosts Fort Hood, and Shreveport is the location of Barksdale Air Force Base.

Notably, Montgomery, Alabama is also home to Maxwell Air Force Base. Fayetteville, North Carolina, which placed a little lower in the rankings at number 12, is home to Fort Bragg. Columbus, Georgia, near Fort Benning, came in at number 15. And Columbia, South Carolina, home to Fort Jackson, was number 18. 

In June, the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch released a report showing that cases of STDs like chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis were increasing within the military — although the increase did also mirror national trends. From 2013 to 2018, instances of chlamydia more than doubled among service members — both men and women. Gonorrhea rates doubled for men during that same time period. Instances of syphilis tripled. 

"From a military standpoint, sexually transmitted infections can have a significant impact on individual readiness, which in turn impacts unit readiness, which then leads to a decrease in force health protection," Maj. Dianne Frankel, an Air Force internal medicine physician, said in a statement following the June release of the report. 

Nearly 350,000 service members were diagnosed with sexually transmitted illnesses between 2010 and 2018. 

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