Sexual Health

Last Updated: December 07, 2023
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Every Service Member is responsible for - 

Protecting his or her own sexual health,
Protecting others by not transmitting sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and
Preventing unintended pregnancy/paternity.

​Did you know that every year thousands of military service members are diagnosed with at least one STI, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital herpes, and syphilis? 

Military estimates show an average of 1 of every 5 active-duty members have an STI.External Link 

Over the past several years military health surveillance continues to find that STIs are an ongoing threat among Active Duty who are typically within the younger age group, and have travel and job stress factors that may increase their risk​.External Link 

The military routinely reports about the status of STIs in the active duty force - see military STI news articles from 2021 (June and September), 2022, and 2023​.External Link 

While all STIs continue to be military concerns, most recent military data has shown a notable surge in syphilis cases among service members.External Link The STI epidemic is also occurring with civilians according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention​.External Link 

STIs are on the​ rise in the U.​S. - Don't take chances!

Educate yourself!

  • Know what they are. STIs are infections caused by viruses, bacteria or parasites that are passed from one person to another through sexual contact and with shared toys. Viruses cause hepatitis B, genital herpes, human papillomavirus (HPV), and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Bacteria cause chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis. Parasite examples include pubic lice and trichomoniasis.

  • Understand symptoms may not be noticeableA person can have an STI without having obvious symptoms, or symptoms may not occur for days, weeks, or even months after exposure. Symptoms can include: pelvic, vaginal, or penile pain, swelling, burning, discharge or odors, rashes, blisters, or warts, bleeding between periods, and/or painful sex.
  • Know what can happen if not treated. Untreated STIs can cause infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease, chronic pain, nervous system disorders, certain types of cancer, organ failure and potentially death. Untreated STIs can also be dangerous during pregnancy to a mother and her baby. 

What can you do?

  • ​​Mon​it​or and protect yourself: 
    • Get tested as often as your healthcare provider suggests and get treatment when needed 
    • Get the human papillomavirus (HPV) and Hepatitis B vaccines
    • Ensure that your at-risk partners get tested and are vaccinated

  • ​Be ​responsible about sex: 
    • Choose to not have sex (oral, vaginal, or anal) 
    • Reduce your number of partners 
    • Talk with your partner - Get tested together 
    • Use a condom correctly EVERY time (oral, vaginal, or anal sex) 
    • Avoid risky situations like drug and excessive alcohol use, “hook-ups,” unknown partners, offering or receiving money or drugs for sex 
    • Be smart about other risks - Don’t share needles or razor blades, and ensure tattoo and piercing facilities are safe 
  • ​​Learn more about how to protect yourself and your partner(s) from STIs: ​
    • ​​​​Get sexual healthcare answers on the Defense Healthcare Agency's (DHA) Deployment Readiness Education for Servicewomen (DRES) app. ClickExternal Link​ or scan ​this QR code to use the​ app. 
    • ​​Review this detailed DCPH-A Presentation and summary Brochure​ to learn about the types of STIs that affect military personnel, including HIV, what risk factors to avoid, and how to prevent them.  
    • Learn about the impacts of STIs on military readiness through Military Health System STI Prevention resourcesExternal Link

​NEW & Popular in Sexual Health:​​ 

  • ​News Article (September 2023): Syphilis, STIs growing threat to U.S. Armed ForcesExternal Link A recent rise in syphilis in the U.S. included a 40% rise among military service members 2020-2022External Link. Syphilis can cause serious effects to your brain, heart, eyes, and other organs, and be passed from a pregnant person to their baby. Syphilis is easy to cure in its early stages with penicillin, but the longer it goes untreated the more damage it can do. Prevent syphilis by using condoms every time you have sex and get tested regularly if sexually active. If you test positive for syphilis, tell your current and past partners. For more information visit the CDC​External Link or talk to your primary care medical provider.​ 

  • ​​​Did​ you know? Human papillomavirus (HPV)External Link is a common STI virus that can lead to certain types of cancer later in life among women and men. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)External Link reports that HPV can cause cancers of the cervixExternal Link, vagina, and vulva​External Link in women, the penisExternal Link in men, and in the anusExternal Link and in the mouth and throatExternal Link, in both men and women. The cancer can occur years, even decades after exposure to HPV. The HPV vaccination can prevent over 90% of cancers caused by HPV. Ideally, children will get fully vaccinated when younger, such as 11-12 years of age. Per CDC guidelinesExternal Link, if not fully vaccinated as a child, everyone male or female up to 26 years of age should get the HPV vaccine. Individuals between 27 and 45 years may benefit from the vaccine – but should discuss with their healthcare provider first. 

  • ​Did you know? Every day a service member is diagnosed with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Do your part to help end HIV in the military community. Lower your risk by using condoms, get tested for STIs, and talk to your provider about whether you would benefit from the daily HIV pre-exposure prohylaxis pill (“PrEP”)External Link​. 


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