Sexually transmitted diseases in the Southeastern United States: location, race, and social context

Sex Transm Dis. 2006 Jul;33(7 Suppl):S58-64. doi: 10.1097/01.olq.0000175378.20009.5a.


Heterosexual transmission of HIV in the United States appears to be following the epidemiologic pattern of bacterial sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as syphilis and gonorrhea, disproportionately affecting blacks in the Southeastern region. Nationwide, rates of syphilis and gonorrhea are nearly 30 times higher in blacks than in whites, and this racial disparity underlies most of the regional and county-level differences in rates. The racial disparity cannot be explained by traditional measures of socioeconomic differences, and it cannot be explained by individual-level determinants of sexual behavior, but rather reflects deeper group-level social and environmental factors for which race is a marker. A theoretical model based on previous ecologic studies is proposed to explain the relationship between racial discrimination and elevated rates of STDs in blacks. Key factors in the model include: 1) chronic joblessness, 2) drug and alcohol marketing, 3) social disorganization (or social capital), and 4) male incarceration.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Demography
  • Ethnicity / statistics & numerical data*
  • Gonorrhea / epidemiology
  • Gonorrhea / ethnology
  • Gonorrhea / etiology
  • Gonorrhea / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / ethnology
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / etiology
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Social Support*
  • Southeastern United States / epidemiology
  • Syphilis / epidemiology
  • Syphilis / ethnology
  • Syphilis / etiology
  • Syphilis / prevention & control