Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are a group of infections that are predominately transmitted by sexual intercourse. They can infect several different body sites and be transmitted by any type of sex, including vaginal, anal, and oral sex. Common STDs include:

  • chlamydia
  • gonorrhea
  • syphilis (caused by bacteria)
  • herpes
  • human papillomavirus
  • HIV (caused by viruses)
  • trichomoniasis (caused by a protozoa).

Some STDs are reportable to Iowa HHS, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and HIV. The information that Iowa HHS gathers on STDs is used to gain a better understanding of how these infections affect populations in our state and develop disease intervention strategies to reduce the negative consequences associated with these infections in our communities.

Disease Intervention Specialists (DIS) are health department staff who work with patients and medical providers to ensure that diagnosed patients and their partners have been connected with resources needed for their health, as well as working to reduce the spread of infection in Iowa's communities.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases & Health

While many STDs are very common, if STDs are left undiagnosed and untreated, they can lead to serious health consequences for the individual. This includes permanent and irreversible damage to the reproductive tract, which may lead to chronic pain and affect your ability to have children. Untreated STDs also increase your risk of acquiring or transmitting HIV. However, if STDs are treated promptly, these health consequences can be avoided.

It is common for individuals with STDs to have no obvious signs or symptoms (asymptomatic). This is especially true for infections like chlamydia and gonorrhea. This means that someone can be infected and not know it, leading to the individual unknowingly spreading the infections to others and putting them at risk for long-term health consequences. For asymptomatic STDs, the only way to know whether you are infected is to be tested.

About STD Data

What do these data tell us?

The number of chlamydia and gonorrhea cases per county, per year, as well as statewide totals. Data are also displayed as crude rates (rate per 100,000 population) at the county and state levels.

How can we use these data?

Explore and visualize disease burden throughout Iowa at county and statewide levels. Data can be viewed by individual year and as case counts or rates.

What can these data not tell us and what are some data limitations?

These data only represent reported cases of a particular infection. There are a number of reasons why a case may not be reported. First, an individual has to be diagnosed by a clinician. Because STDs like chlamydia and gonorrhea are often asymptomatic, many infected individuals never seek testing.

Gaps in the disease reporting system can also lead to cases not being reported. For these reasons and others, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that the actual disease burdens of chlamydia and gonorrhea are likely double of what is reported to health departments.

Additionally, not all STDs are reportable to Iowa HHS. These data can only tell us about individual STDs like chlamydia and gonorrhea. There is no way to get a statewide picture of all STDs in a county or the state.

What is the source of the data?

Iowa is a dual reporting state for STDs, meaning that both the laboratory with the positive results and the clinician making the diagnosis are required to report. STD data are from both of these sources. One of the reasons for dual reporting is that laboratories rarely have all the needed information (e.g., treatment information). Data from both sources are combined and deduplicated in a single system.

Sexually Transmitted Disease Resource Links