Eric Rodriquez

By Tribune Staff

NASHVILLE, TN — Governor Bill Lee’s recent decision to decline money from the CDC for HIV care and prevention comes on the heels of a recent study from Innerbody Research that shows Memphis has the highest rate of STDs in the United States.  In the rest of Tennessee, Nashville came in at 39 and Knoxville came in at 71. 

Eric Rodriguez, CEO of Innerbody Research, stated that it has been challenging to find accurate information about STD’s. To derive their rankings, they use publicly available data provided by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) for four STDS (HIV, Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and Syphilis.) The study found correlations in that 13 of the 15 cities with the highest STD rates in the country were in states with Republican governments. The study has some limitations due to CDC data lacks rates of STDs amongst Latinos or the LGBTQIA community. 

According to the CDC, the non-Hispanic Black population is 12% of the United States but account for 32% of STD cases in the United States. This is shown in the states with the highest rates being majority-minority, Memphis, TN in first place and Jackson MS in second place. STD rates are also increasing rapidly across the Southeast which accounts for 14 of the top 25 cities for STDs. 

The study found no difference in rate increases and saw all four STD’s increasing equally. Rodriguez noted that many of the cities with higher STD rates lacked comprehensive sex education programs, and anecdotally, were more concentrated in places where stigma still exists around being tested and having and STD. 

Rodriguez noted that cities with rapidly increasing STD rates lack access to affordable testing and prevention. These same cities are plagued with high rates of uninsured individuals and low state spending on STD prevention. According to Rodriguez, the top three cities for STDs also have the lowest healthcare spending per capita. These states are Tennessee, South Carolina, and Mississippi. 

While the upward trend of STD rates in Tennessee, and across the American Southeast, are cause for concern, Rodriguez noted the average Tennessean does have power to impact these rates. First, sexually active people should be tested regularly. Knowing your STD status is half of the battle. Many STDs are curable, and all STDs are treatable. Second, combatting STD stigma is crucial in the battle against STDs. While stigma exists, STD testing is easier than it has ever been. You can now buy a test for STDs over the counter and test yourself at home. Rodriguez encourages everyone to know their status.

If you would like to learn more about this study you can view the full results at