Newly released data shows that the number of total new Syphilis, Chlamydia, and Gonorrhea diagnoses rose significantly in Virginia over the past decade.People who plan to move to a new area tend to ask a few questions before pulling the trigger on a new home. How much are property taxes? Which is the best school district? How many people in the town have an STD? Yeah, that last question isn't really a thing but if these numbers keep up, it sure could become one ... More and more Virginians are seemingly forgetting what they learned in high school and contracting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs, also sometimes tracked as sexually transmitted infections or STIs), according to new data released in the Virginia Department of Health's STD Annual Reports. In 2016, there were 1,009 new early diagnoses of Syphilis, 38,781 first diagnoses of Chlamydia, and 10,835 new Gonorrhea diagnoses. These represent significant year-over-year increases from the 2015 data and the Department of Health warns that all three venereal diseases are trending upwards in the Commonwealth. Comparatively, early Syphilis diagnoses have doubled in the seven years between 2010 and 2016. Chlamydia diagnoses rose by 34 percent in the last decade and while Gonorrhea infections were trending downwards in recent years, 2016's numbers have now surpassed the previous high set in 2008. My first thought, like any good Virginian, was to blame the out-of-state transplants. Surely, this increase in the total number of infections is just the result of people who slept through health class moving here. Unfortunately, that's not the case.
The rate of infection for these diseases is also getting worse. Across all races, ethnicities, genders, and age ranges, the rates of infection -- diagnoses per 100,000 people -- for these sexually transmitted diseases are either rising or static. Yes, even the geriatric are seeing an increase in the rate of STD infections (I'm sure there's a story in there somewhere). This graphic above of 2012's data -- which more-or-less remains the same geographically -- shows where Virginia's STD infections tend to be concentrated. Richmond, Virginia, has been in the top 20 cities in the country for STD/STI infections for multiple years now. However, the greater Norfolk area, including Virginia Beach, has broken through to the top 10 STD-infected cities in the country. Not exactly something you should expect to read in their tourism brochures ... The silver lining is that these sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise nationwide, so the trend itself isn't unique to Virginia. So what is causing this increase? Researchers are still trying to parse the data, but one takeaway that has been noticed in recent years is that larger-than-average active military populations can skew a city or state's STD numbers. While that doesn't necessarily speak to Richmond's numbers, it certainly could explain part of the reason that southeastern Virginia -- specifically the area built up around the Norfolk Naval and Langley Air Force bases -- is seeing sexually transmitted disease rates so much higher than the rest of the Commonwealth. With that said, there are high infection rates in all of Virginia's cities, which just speaks to a disease's ability to spread easier in dense populations.