What are the racial predilections of gonorrhea?

Updated: Jun 15, 2021
  • Author: Shahab Qureshi, MD, FACP; Chief Editor: Pranatharthi Haran Chandrasekar, MBBS, MD  more...
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All sexually active populations are at risk for gonococcal infection, and the level of risk rises with the number of sexual partners and the presence of other STDs.

Although race has no intrinsic effect on susceptibility to gonorrhea, the frequency of gonorrhea in the United States is increased among urban dwellers, individuals of lower socioeconomic status, and minorities of any population. This may be due to decreased access to diagnosis and treatment; lack of adequate care (ie, education, diagnosis, and treatment), leading to increased transmission rates; and/or reflection bias due to data collection site preference (eg, urban emergency departments and STD clinics), as well as true differences in prevalence.

Overall, the African American–to–White ratio of gonococcal infections declined from 23:1 in 2002 to 18:1 in 2006. Infection rates have trended downward since 1998; however, between 2005 and 2006, the CDC noted a 6.3% increase in the rate of gonococcal infections in African Americans. Subsequently, rates have begun to downtrend once again. 

Gonorrhea rates by race/ethnicity, United States, Gonorrhea rates by race/ethnicity, United States, 2012-2016. Courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Compared with reported incidence in Whites, the rate of reported cases was 8.6 times higher in Blacks, 3 times higher in native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders, 1.7 times higher in Hispanics, and 0.5 times higher in Asians. [29] From 2012-2016, the gonorrhea rate increased among all races and ethnic groups.

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