STI havens within galloping distance of Preakness

If indecent exposure laws aren't enough to give adventurous Pimlico infield visitors pause, here's another disincentive: The famous race course lies inside of one of Baltimore's statistical hot spots for gonorrhea.

Just in time for the end of national STI Awareness Month (and, unintentionally, in time for the start of the Triple Crown at the Kentucky Derby on Saturday), staff recently added a set of maps to the city's STD page, showing Baltimore ZIP codes' rates for chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis in 2012. That map's high-occurrence zones of course included the home of the Preakness. Among other interesting finds:

--- The 21251 and 21222 areas show the highest per-capita rates for chlamydia. Those ZIP codes roughly correspond to Morgan State University area and a sliver of the far southeast corner of the city near Dundalk, respectively.

--- While 21251 was again in the worst category for gonorrhea, it is joined by several other ZIP codes, with most of the worst being just to either side of the Charles Street corridor. Those additional ZIPs are 21216 (including Mondawmin/Coppin), 21217 (including Bolton Hill), 21213 (including Clifton Park) and 21215 (including Pimlico).

--- Syphilis rates were worst in 21217 -- the area that includes Reservoir Hill and Bolton Hill. (The city broke each disease rating into five tiers of infection rate ranges. On each of the chlamydia and gonorrhea maps, the worst category was displayed for at least two ZIP codes, but on the syphilis map, 21217 was the sole holder of this dishonor). 21251, which rated in the highest risk category for chlamydia and gonorrhea, was one of only a few ZIPs in the lowest-risk category for Syphilis.

One boilerplate word of warning: If a neighborhood shows a low rate, that doesn't mean it's safe to play without protection. Virtually any sexual behavior outside of abstinence carries some disease risk, so using a condom and getting tested regularly is never a bad idea. The city's STI page includes a lookup service for finding testing facilities.

To see city maps of infection rates for city ZIP codes: