Epidemiology of STD disparities in African American communities

Sex Transm Dis. 2008 Dec;35(12 Suppl):S4-12. doi: 10.1097/OLQ.0b013e31818eb90e.


This article reviews the epidemiology of sexually transmitted disease (STD) disparities for African American communities in the United States. Data are reviewed from a variety of sources such as national case reporting and population-based studies. Data clearly show a disproportionately higher burden of STDs in African American communities compared with white communities. Although disparities exist for both viral and bacterial STDs, disparities are greatest for bacterial STDs such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis. Gonorrhea rates among African Americans are highest for adolescents and young adults, and disparities are greatest for adolescent men. Although disparities for men who have sex with men (MSM) are not as great as for heterosexual populations, STD rates for both white and African American MSM populations are high, so efforts to address disparities must also include African American MSM. Individual risk behavior and sociodemographic characteristics of African Americans do not seem to account fully for increased STD rates for African Americans. Population-level determinants such as sexual networks seem to play an important role in STD disparities. An understanding of the epidemiology of STD disparities is critical for identifying appropriate strategies and tailoring strategies for African American communities. Active efforts are needed to reduce not only the physical consequences of STDs, such as infertility, ectopic pregnancy, chronic pelvic pain, newborn disease, and increased risk of HIV infection, but also the social consequences of STDs such as economic burden, shame, and stigma.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Attitude
  • Black or African American*
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Healthcare Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / ethnology*
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / prevention & control
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult