STD Health Equity

photo montage of men and women

Health equity is achieved when everyone has an equal chance to be healthy regardless of their background. This includes a person’s race, ethnicity, income, gender, religion, sexual identity, and disability.1

Research shows that there are higher rates of STDs among some racial or ethnic minority groups compared to whites.2.3 It is important to understand that these higher rates are not caused by ethnicity or heritage, but by social conditions that are more likely to affect minority groups. Factors such as poverty, large gaps between the rich and the poor, fewer jobs, and low education levels can make it more difficult for people to stay sexually healthy.4

  • People who cannot afford basic needs may have trouble accessing quality sexual health services.5
  • Many racial/ethnic minorities may distrust the health care system, fearing discrimination from doctors and other health care providers.6 This could create negative feelings around getting tested and treated for STDs.
  • In communities with higher STD rates, sexually active people may be more likely to get an STD because they have greater odds of selecting a partner who is infected.7,8

Learning more about STDs and the factors that sustain these epidemics is a first step in empowering affected communities to improve their health status and advance health equity.

Success Stories
Shaping Tomorrow’s Leaders Today: Community Sexual Health Program Cultivates Leadership Skills in Youth
Baltimore City Health Department and CARS team up to empower young leaders to reach their peers about sexual health
Healthy Relationships
The Healthy Relationships program is bringing STD prevention information to college students, and helping to develop the next generation of student leaders.
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More Success Stories

Overview and highlights about the Community Approaches to Reducing Sexually Transmitted Diseases (CARS) cooperative agreement.

Evaluation Report

Data & Statistics

Fact Sheetpdf icon – 10 Ways STDs Impact Women Differently from Men (April 1, 2011) Fact sheet explaining why women are disproportionately affected by STDs.

CDC Health Disparities and Inequalities Report. Analysis of trends in health disparities and inequalities for a range of health issues.

Indian Health Surveillance – STDs (March 1, 2012) STD statistics and trends among American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN).


Health Disparities in HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STDs and Tuberculosis in the US: Issues, Burden and Response (July 9, 2013) Information and resources about health disparities in various communities.

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, National Healthcare Disparities Report 2012Externalexternal icon Report on disparities in health care delivery relating to race and socioeconomic status.

U.S. Surgeon General’s National Prevention StrategyExternalexternal icon Recommendations from the Surgeon General on health and wellbeing priority areas.

Health Disparities Information and resources from CDC’s Office of Minority Health and Health Equity


1 The Community Guide: The Guide to Community Preventive Services. Community Preventive Services Task Force. (Page last updated: April 25, 2013)

2 Hogben M, Leichliter JS. Social determinants and sexually transmitted disease disparities. Sex Transm Dis. 2008;35(12 Suppl):S13-8.

3 Cunningham PJ, Cornelius LJ. Access to ambulatory care for American Indians and Alaska Natives; the relative importance of personal and community resources. Soc Sci Med. 1995:40(3): 393-407.

4 Gonzalez JS, Hendriksen ES, Collins EM, Duran RE, Safren SA. Latinos and HIV/AIDS: examining factors related to disparity and identifying opportunities for psychosocial intervention research. AIDS Behav. 2009:13:582-602.

5 Institute of Medicine. The Hidden Epidemic: Confronting Sexually Transmitted DiseasesExternalexternal icon. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 1997.

6 Wiehe SE, Rosenman MB, Wang J, Katz BP, Fortenberry D. Chlamydia screening among young women: individual- and provider-level differences in testing. Pediatrics. 2011;127(2): e336-44.

7 Hogben M, Leichliter JS. Social determinants and sexually transmitted disease disparities. Sex Transm Dis. 2008;35(12 Suppl):S13-8.

8 Laumann EO, Youm Y. Racial/ethnic group differences in the prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases in the United States: a network explanation. Sex Transm Dis. 1999;26(5):250-61.