WASHINGTON - Maryland ranked in the Top 20 states for a second year with the highest rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea and placed fourth for syphilis, according to the latest data from the Maryland health department.
"We've been hovering in the top five [for syphilis] for the past few years," said Barbara Conrad, sexually transmitted disease prevention division chief for the Maryland Health Department, who expects 2008 data in the next month.
Maryland ranked fifth for primary and secondary syphilis, second for congenital syphilis, 14th for chlamydia and 18th for gonorrhea in 2006.
In 2007, Maryland had 345 cases of primary and secondary syphilis with a high concentration of cases in Baltimore City and Prince George's County.
Unprotected sex and lack of awareness, along with socioeconomic status and the use of alcohol and drugs, are chief causes of Maryland's elevated sexually transmitted disease, or STD, rates, which are based on reported cases, said Conrad.
Data for 2007 showed Maryland dropping to 19th for gonorrhea and rising one spot to 13th for chlamydia, both rates higher than the national average. There were more than 23,000 chlamydia cases with nearly half from young people ages 15 to 24.
Conrad said people either seek care after developing symptoms or after a partner was recently tested or treated and suggested they do or for their own information.
Almost half of medically insured women voluntarily get tested for chlamydia, according to the health department.
"Compared to other states, Maryland is doing well," Conrad said of the women who voluntarily get tested.
But to improve Maryland's rates, more must be done.