Back to Top Skip to main content

Sexually transmitted infections on the rise in military

Some sexually transmitted infections are on the rise in the military. To increase awareness, members of Team McConnell attend a briefing on STIs at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alexi Myrick) Some sexually transmitted infections are on the rise in the military. To increase awareness, members of Team McConnell attend a briefing on STIs at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alexi Myrick)

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Men's Health | Women's Health

The rates of certain types of sexually transmitted infections, or STIs, are rising dramatically for both male and female service members, according to a recent report. These STIs include chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirm similar surges for these three types of infections in the civilian population. The current high rates in the military pose challenges for more than 1.3 million DoD personnel, 84 percent of whom are men.

“We have a large number of males in the service, and the population we see normally is the 18 to 25 year olds. STI is most common in that age group,” said Norma Jean Suarez, a nurse practitioner in preventive medicine at Brook Army Medical Center in San Antonio. She added that the men she sees often don’t know how prevalent STIs are.

STI myths (MHS graphic)
STI myths (MHS graphic)

“STIs place a significant economic strain on the U.S. and military health care systems,” said Maj. Dianne Frankel, an Air Force internal medicine physician and USU preventive medicine resident. In 2012, STIs in the Navy alone accounted for health care costs of $5.4 million.

“From a military standpoint, STIs can have a significant impact on individual readiness, which in turn impacts unit readiness, which then leads to a decrease in force health protection,” said Frankel. She added that there can be serious health consequences for untreated STIs, including, down the road, cancer in the case of genital human papillomavirus, or HPV.

But why are STIs on the rise, and why now? “There appears to be an increase in high-risk behaviors among service members; that is, having sex without a condom or having more than one sexual partner,” said Frankel, referring to the 2015 DoD Health-Related Behaviors Survey, known as HRBS. This report documented that one-fifth of respondents reported having more than one sexual partner in the past year, while one-third reported having sex with a new partner in the past year without use of a condom. These numbers have doubled since the last reported survey in 2011, said Frankel.

Suarez added another factor she’s been seeing: Dating apps can promote random, anonymous encounters, and when infections result, that anonymity can make partners difficult to track down. Having anonymous sex is one of the CDC’s list of behaviors that can increase risk of contracting an STI or HIV. Others include having vaginal, oral, or anal sex without a condom; having multiple sexual partners; or having sex while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, which can lower inhibitions and result in greater sexual risk-taking.

In general, STIs spread readily if precautions aren’t taken, according to Col. Amy Costello, chief of preventive medicine at the Air Force Medical Support Agency. “Chlamydia and gonorrhea are quite common; they can be transmitted vaginally, anally, or through oral-sexual contact,” she said. “Pretty much any time you have mucous membrane contact with an infected person, you have a chance of getting it.” She added that syphilis is usually spread through open sores that can be non-painful, meaning an infected person might not know the infection is present.

Not all STIs are on the rise, according to the HRBS. Rates for genital herpes simplex decreased slightly between 2010 and 2018, and HPV dropped by almost 52 percent. She credited the widespread adoption of the HPV vaccine for the dramatic decline in the rate of infection.

HIV is another STI of concern. “A lot of service members don’t understand that HIV exists on the active-duty military side,” said Suarez. “Here in San Antonio alone, we manage 30+ HIV-positive active-duty soldiers.” But rates of HIV are much lower in the military than in the U.S. population, Frankel said, adding that numbers for HIV from 2012 – 2017 “have been relatively stable.”

Costello said that chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis are bacterial infections that are treated with antibiotics. HPV, herpes, and HIV are viruses and more difficult to treat. She said the most reliable way to avoid getting an STI is to stay away from oral, vaginal, and anal sex unless in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship with a partner known to be uninfected. But, she added, “That’s not a realistic plan for many of our younger service members who aren’t yet married or in long-term monogamous relationships.” Therefore, condom use is critical, she concluded, and any symptoms should lead to testing.

Efforts are ongoing to combat the rise of STIs through education. “STIs are preventable,” said Frankel. “It’s important for everyone to know how to protect themselves and their partners.”

You also may be interested in...

Transformation underway across the Military Health System

Article
1/29/2019
Thomas McCaffery, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, with Vice Adm. Raquel Bono, director, Defense Health Agency, celebrated the Defense Health Agency's fifth anniversary on Oct. 1, 2018, by welcoming the first military hospitals and clinics transitioning to the DHA. This was first step for the MHS to emerge as a more integrated and efficient system of health and readiness. (MHS photo by Military Heath System Strategic Communications Division)

All of these changes – the Military Health System transformation, MHS GENESIS, TRICARE enhancements – are aimed at taking the DoD’s health enterprise to the next level

Recommended Content:

Access to Health Care | Health Readiness | TRICARE Health Program | MHS GENESIS | Military Hospitals and Clinics | MHS Transformation

Acute Flaccid Myelitis Case Reporting

Infographic
1/29/2019
Acute Flaccid Myelitis Case Reporting

This case highlights important clinical characteristics of acute flaccid myelitis and emphasizes the importance of including AFM in the differential diagnosis when evaluating active duty service members and Military Health System beneficiaries presenting with paralysis.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch | Epidemiology and Analysis | Medical Surveillance Monthly Report | Public Health

Cardiovascular disease-related medical evacuations

Infographic
1/29/2019
Cardiovascular disease-related medical evacuations

This descriptive analysis summarizes the demographic characteristics, counts, rates and temporal trends for Cardiovascular disease-related medical evacuations from the CENTCOM area of responsibility. In addition, the percentage of those evacuated who had received pre-deployment diagnoses indicating cardiovascular risk is summarized. Responses to questions regarding health status and physician referrals on the DD2795 are also summarized.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch | Epidemiology and Analysis | Medical Surveillance Monthly Report | Public Health

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

Infographic
1/29/2019
HPV

At the time of this report, there were no published studies of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) incidence over time among active component U.S. military personnel. Examining the incidence rates of NAFLD and their temporal trends among active component U.S. military members can provide insights into the future burden of NAFLD on the MHS.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch | Epidemiology and Analysis | Medical Surveillance Monthly Report | Public Health

Growing Air Force’s space medicine culture

Article
1/23/2019
Medical Airmen assigned to U.S. Air Force Space Command are charged with delivering care to the Airmen who launch, monitor and operate the Air Force’s satellite systems. As space continues to play an increasingly critical role in our nation’s defense, medical Airmen in AFSPC are also preparing for the future of space medicine. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The role of AFSPC medics to ensure space operators are medically ready to complete their mission

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness

2019 TRICARE Winter Safety Kit

Infographic
1/22/2019
TRICARE Winter Safety Kit 2019

This infographic provides tips and information about staying safe and warm during a snow storm.

Recommended Content:

Winter Safety | Health Readiness | Preventive Health

A new year marks a new you

Article
1/18/2019
Navy Reserve Sailors assigned to Navy Operational Support Center, Phoenix perform a 1.5-mile run during the physical readiness test at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale, Arizona. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 3rd Class Drew Verbis)

Changes in lifestyle don’t have to be drastic to be effective

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Physical Activity

'Fused' technologies give 3D view of prostate during biopsy

Article
1/9/2019
Eisenhower Army Medical Center graphic

Other than skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men

Recommended Content:

Men's Health | Military Hospitals and Clinics | Preventive Health

CJTH continues to provide superior care for U.S., coalition forces

Article
1/7/2019
A medical team transports a patient by a stretcher to Craig Joint Theater Hospital at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 10, 2018. Before entering the hospital, patients are thoroughly assessed, administratively in-processed and checked for any explosive ordnance or weapons. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kaylee Dubois)

With a 99.3-percent survival rate, the hospital staff have reason to be proud

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Military Hospitals and Clinics

Northstar Dustoff provides aeromedical evacuation in Kuwait

Article
1/4/2019
Army Soldiers assigned to the 2-211th General Support Aviation Battalion, Minnesota Army National Guard, and the 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team, Mississippi Army National Guard, pull a patient from a UH-60L Black Hawk helicopter during an aeromedical evacuation rehearsal at Camp Buehring, Kuwait. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Emily Finn)

Northstar Dustoff has completed more than 60 aeromedical evacuations since August 2018

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness

Langley surgical team goes 'purple'

Article
1/3/2019
A joint surgical team comprised of three separate branches assembled to perform an operation at U.S. Air Force Hospital Langley at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia. Consisting of a Navy surgeon, Air Force nurse and Army technician, the team performed a Functional Endoscopic Sinus Surgery to restore a patient’s sinus ventilation to normal function. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Samuel Eckholm)

A joint surgical team was organized to perform a functional endoscopic sinus surgery

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Military Hospitals and Clinics

Army hospital earns reputation as a top teaching institution

Article
1/2/2019
Army OB/GYN nurse residents train in the CRDAMC simulation lab. The OB/GYN Nurse Resident Program, only offered at CRDAMC, focuses on OB/GYN nursing skills that include childbearing, high-risk and complicated pregnancy, newborn assessment and care and family planning gynecology. (U.S. Army photo by Gloria Montgomery)

CRDAMC has been recognized by healthcare associations and educational institutions for exceptional achievements

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Military Hospitals and Clinics

MSMR Vol. 26 No. 1 - January 2019

Report
1/1/2019

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2000–2017; Cardiovascular disease-related medical evacuations, active and reserve components, U.S. Armed Forces, 1 October 2001– 31 December 2017; Acute flaccid myelitis: Case report; Historical perspective: Leptospirosis outbreaks affecting military forces

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Public Health

Combat medics improve readiness with individual critical task list training

Article
12/31/2018
A group of combat medics unload a casualty from a MEDEVAC helicopter during a recent emergency medical evacuation training exercise at the hospital’s helipad here as part of the combat medic’s individual critical task list training. (U.S. Army photo by Patricia Deal)

There is no substitution for being pushed around by the rotor wash of a helicopter

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness

If the weather outside is frightful, a little preparation can make it delightful

Article
12/28/2018
Army 2nd Lt. David Stringer, 452nd Combat Support Hospital, leads his group through snowy terrain during winter warfare training at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Felix R. Fimbres)

Learn the risks of exposure to cold, and steps to stay safe

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness
<< < ... 6 7 8 9 10  ... > >> 
Showing results 76 - 90 Page 6 of 43

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.