Three of the 10 most sexually diseased cities in the United States have major military bases

Sex and the city. Image:

There are many questions that a person might consider when moving to a new city. How's the local economy? How good are the local schools? Is there a decent public transport system, or will I be spending all my time stuck in my car?

One of the questions you're less likely to consider is, "If I pick someone up in a bar, how likely am I to end up with a sexually transmitted infection for my troubles?"

What’s even less likely, once you've decided that you want to know the answer to this question, is that you'll turn to a company who provides credit checks for landlords to get it.

But luckily, in these days of open data and viral marketing, one American tenant referencing firm has taken it upon themselves to assist our sexually liberated rolling stone.

The Centre for Disease Control collects data on the incidence of syphilis, gonorrhoea and chlamydia in every county of the United States. (Herpes data, sadly, is not available.) took that data and combined it with population figures to measure rates of incidence per 100,000 people – excluding rural counties, where low populations would produce misleading statistical outliers.

The result was this map:

This map about STD statistics was created and produced by

One trend immediately leaps out at you: the southern half of the US seems to be a lot more STI-y than the north.

That said, Alaska has this going on, so:

The fact STIs are more prevalent in the lower half of the country is borne out when you look at the ten most, er, diseased cities in the US. No fewer than eight of them are in the south. Neither of the others – Philadelphia or St Louis, Missouri – are that far from the border.

Here's the top 10, with the incidence of STDs per 100,000 population.

  1. Montgomery, AL; 1899.20
  2. St Louis, MO; 1867.54
  3. West Memphis, AR; 1717.29
  4. Philadelphia, PA; 1689.77
  5. Norfolk, VA; 1632.74
  6. Baltimore, MD; 1630.98      
  7. Richmond, VA; 1544.39
  8. New Orleans, LA; 1520.37
  9. Killeen, TX; 1512.83
  10. Fayetteville, NC; 1489.2

There's another less obvious pattern here. Some of the cities in the top 10 are pretty obscure – had you ever heard of Killeen, Texas? We hadn't. But three of the less known cities on this list have something in common.

Killeen (pop. 128,000) is the site of the Fort Hood US army base (pop. 53,000). Similarly, Fayetteville (pop. 204,000) is the site of Fort Bragg (pop. 40,000), while Norfolk is the site of the Norfolk Naval Base. All three of these are comfortably within the top 10 of the largest military bases on American soil.

We’re trying to be delicate about this, but... what on earth is going on in the US military? Jesus, guys, use protection.

One question remains: why? Or to be more specific, why would a company whose business involves checking up on tenants on behalf of landlords choose to investigate this?

Here’s what a spokesperson told us:

Anything that has to do with cities, states, locations, renting, etc. is fair game on our blog. But really what I've discovered is there's a ton of really fascinating data out there, paid for by taxes, that is buried in PDFs, Excel files, or just presented in a boring way.

So any time we find something worthy enough we're gonna build a map out of it. And, of course, sex always sells.

Our kind of people.


Sadiq Khan and Grant Shapps clash over free bus travel for under 18s

A London bus at Victoria station. Image: Getty.

The latest front in the row between Transport for London (TfL) and national government over how to fund the capital’s transport system: free bus travel for the under 18s.

Two weeks ago, you’ll recall, TfL came perilously close to running out of money and was forced to ask for a bail out. The government agreed, but offered less money, and with more strings attached, than the agency wanted. At present, there are a range of fare discounts – some up to 100% – available to children depending on their age and which service they’re using, provided they have the right Oyster card. One of the government’s strings, the mayor’s office says, was to end all free TfL travel for the under 18s, Oyster or no Oyster.

The Department for Transport’s line on all this is that this is about maximising capacity. Many working-age people need to use buses to get to their jobs: they’re more likely to be able to do that, while also social distancing, if those buses aren’t already full of teenagers riding for free. (DfT cited the same motivation for banning the use of the Freedom Pass, which provides free travel for the retired, at peak times.)

But in an open letter to transport secretary Grant Shapps, the mayor, Sadiq Khan, wrote that TfL believed that 30% of children who currently received free travel had a statutory entitlement to it, because they attend schools more than a certain distance from their homes. If TfL doesn’t fund this travel, London’s boroughs must, which apart from loading costs onto local government means replacing an administrative system that already exists with one that doesn’t. 

Some Labour staffers also smell Tory ideological objections to free things for young people at work. To quote Khan’s letter:

“It is abundantly clear that losing free travel would hit the poorest Londoners hardest at a time when finances are stretched more than ever... I want to make sure that families who might not have a choice but to use public transport are not further disadvantaged.”

London’s deputy mayor for transport, Heidi Alexander, is set to meet government officials next week to discuss all this. In the mean time, you can read Khan’s letter here.

UPDATE: The original version of this piece noted that the full agreement between the mayor and DfT remained mysteriously unpublished. Shortly after this story went live, the agreement appeared. Here it is.

Jonn Elledge was founding editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.