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...

Lyme Disease

Infographic
4/1/2019
Lyme Disease

Each year, the MSMR summarizes the numbers, rates, trends, risk factors, and locations of occurrences of exertional heat injuries, including exertional rhabdomyolysis. This report includes the data for 2014–2018.

Recommended Content:

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

Testosterone Replacement Therapy

Infographic
3/20/2019
Testosterone Replacement Therapy

With the increasing number of testosterone deficiency diagnoses and potential health risks associated with initiation of TRT, it is important to understand the epidemiology of which U.S. service men are receiving TRT and whether these individuals have an indication for receiving treatment.

Recommended Content:

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

Male Infertility

Infographic
3/20/2019
Male Infertility

The current report updates and expands on the findings of the previous MSMR analysis of infertility among active component service men. Specifically, the current report summarizes the frequencies, rates, temporal trends, types of infertility, and demographic and military characteristics of infertility among active component service men during 2013–2017.

Recommended Content:

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

Vasectomy

Infographic
3/20/2019
Vasectomy

There are few published studies of vasectomy and vasectomy reversal among the U.S. military population. To address these gaps, the current analysis describes the overall and annual incidence rates of vasectomy among active component service men during 2000–2017 by demographic and military characteristics and by type of surgical vas isolation procedure used. In addition, the median age at incident vasectomy and the time between incident vasectomy and first vasectomy reversal are described.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Epidemiology and Analysis | Medical Surveillance Monthly Report | Public Health

Sexually Transmitted Infections

Infographic
3/20/2019
Sexually Transmitted Infections

This report summarizes incidence rates of the 5 most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among active component service members of the U.S. Armed Forces during 2010–2018.

Recommended Content:

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

Adenovirus

Infographic
3/1/2019
Adenovirus

During August–September 2016, U.S. Naval Academy clinical staff noted an increase in students presenting with acute respiratory illness (ARI). An investigation was conducted to determine the extent and cause of the outbreak.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Epidemiology and Analysis | Medical Surveillance Monthly Report | Public Health

Malaria

Infographic
3/1/2019
Malaria

Since 1999, the Medical Surveillance Monthly Report has published regular updates on the incidence of malaria among U.S. service members. The MSMR’s focus on malaria reflects both historical lessons learned about this mosquito-borne disease and the continuing threat that it poses to military operations and service members’ health.

Recommended Content:

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

Glaucoma

Infographic
3/1/2019
Glaucoma

This report describes an analysis using the Defense Medical Surveillance System to identify all active component service members with an incident diagnosis of glaucoma during the period between 2013 and 2017.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | 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 | Epidemiology and Analysis | Medical Surveillance Monthly Report | Public Health

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 | 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

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

Rabies

Infographic
11/20/2018
Rabies

Although Germany is rabies-free for terrestrial land mammals, rabies exposure remains a concern for U.S. military personnel assigned there because of personal and military travel and deployments to rabies endemic countries. Deployments have become much more variable both in location and duration. Deployments have increasingly focused on enhancing partnerships and peacekeeping.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Epidemiology and Analysis | Medical Surveillance Monthly Report | Public Health

Cold Weather Injuries

Infographic
11/20/2018
Cold Weather Injuries

This update summarizes the frequencies, incidence rates, and correlates of risk of cold injuries among members of both active and reserve components of the U.S. Armed Forces during the past 5 years.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Epidemiology and Analysis | Medical Surveillance Monthly Report | Public Health

Malaria

Infographic
11/20/2018
Malaria

This report describes a cluster of 11 soldiers with vivax malaria among U.S. military personnel who trained at Dagmar North training area, near the demilitarized zone (DMZ), in the Republic of Korea (ROK) in 2015.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch | Epidemiology and Analysis | Medical Surveillance Monthly Report | Public Health
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 16 - 30 Page 2 of 6

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.