In a world where misinformation is rampant, it’s essential to arm yourself with accurate knowledge
Most active-duty Armed Forces members are under 30, and many are 25 or younger. STDs and their long-term effects are a major concern for this age group.
The Department of Defense implements a range of policies to address the sexual health of military personnel. Education programs and military treatment facilities provide vital information, promote STD awareness, and encourage early screening and treatment.
Can you join the military with an STD, does the military test for STDs before deployment, and how can you get a rapid STD test? Find out all you need to know about military STD testing.
Does the Military Test for STDs?
U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force military towns have some of the highest STI rates in the United States. Unsurprisingly, STD prevalence peaks among young populations living on large military bases. For instance, Montgomery, Alabama, and Augusta, Georgia – homes to Maxwell Air Force Base and Fort Gordon, respectively – rank among the top 10 U.S. cities with the highest STD rates.
STD cases are rising within the U.S. population, including military personnel. Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis are all significantly more common among service members compared to a decade ago. According to the AFHSB (Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch), the rates of gonorrhea, chlamydia, and genital herpes are highest in the Army. HPV cases are most prevalent among Air Force members, while syphilis is most widespread in the U.S. Navy.
The Army invests major resources into STD prevention and treatment. This includes STD testing, which is mandatory for all prospective personnel before going into training as well as for active service members. Military personnel get HIV screenings once in two years at least, and females 26 and younger undergo an annual chlamydia test.
To enlist in the military, the prospective member must produce a negative HIV test. HIV carriers or people who refuse the testing cannot join the U.S. Armed Forces.
What STDs Does the Military Test For?
STDs are a serious health concern for military service members. To protect the long-term sexual and general physical health of its personnel, the U.S. Army supplies a broad range of resources like prevention programs, education about sexual practices, and widespread military STD testing.
Military facilities routinely test and treat service members for the following STIs.
Chlamydia is a common infection that targets both men and women. Chlamydia spreads through vaginal, oral, and anal sex, as well as from mother to infant during childbirth. If left untreated, chlamydia can cause permanent reproductive system damage, infertility, and ectopic pregnancy.
Chlamydia is often asymptomatic, so getting tested is the only reliable way to uncover an infection. Chlamydia treatment typically includes a course of antibiotics.
Gonorrhea is another common STI. The gonorrhea bacterium spreads during vaginal, anal, and oral sex and also to babies of infected mothers during childbirth.
Gonorrhea symptoms usually appear in the genital tract and include painful urination, swelling, or unusual discharge. Women may also experience bleeding between periods and pelvic or abdominal pain. Untreated gonorrhea can cause widespread infections and infertility, so testing is vital to prevent complications.
Hepatitis A, B, and C
Hepatitis, a viral infection affecting the liver, can lead to potentially fatal complications like cirrhosis, liver cancer, and liver failure. Hepatitis A, B, and C can spread through unprotected sexual activity, sharing needles and syringes, and (with hepatitis A) contaminated food and water.
Vaccines are available for hepatitis A and B, but not hepatitis C. Early screening and treatment can help prevent irreversible liver damage.
HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, targets immune system cells and makes the infected person vulnerable to diseases and infections. The virus most commonly spreads through unprotected vaginal or anal sex and through shared injecting equipment.
While there is no cure for HIV, effective treatment options allow most HIV carriers to live long, normal lives. Treatment outcomes depend in a great measure on early diagnosis, which makes regular HIV screening so important.
Syphilis, a bacterial infection spread through sexual contact, can remain dormant for decades. Without proper treatment, syphilis can lead to life-threatening heart, brain, and organ damage.
Syphilis usually responds well to penicillin. Prompt diagnosis and treatment are vital to avoid serious physical health consequences.
What Happens if You Get an STD in the Military?
Let’s say you contract an STD during active service. What next? First, get treatment as quickly as possible. Second, act responsibly and let your partner (or partners) know about your condition.
A service member who knowingly passes an STD to an intimate partner could still face administrative penalties or nonjudicial punishment (NJP). Charges for STD transmission are typically more serious if the STD is potentially deadly (like HIV) or if the transmission happens in conjunction with sexual assault or other misconduct.
HIV-infected service members who have unprotected sex without disclosing their condition may face an aggravated assault conviction. Knowingly engaging in unprotected sex during an active outbreak of genital herpes, without warning your partner, could also lead to aggravated assault charges.
Military STD Disqualifications
In the past, contracting HIV meant an end to a service member’s military career. Today, with advanced treatment options and proper precautions, HIV-infected personnel can continue their active service.
Most common STDs, like chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, crabs, or syphilis don’t disqualify a person from active military service. However, undiagnosed and untreated STDs can lead to long-term health damage that could eventually end a service member’s military career.
The potentially devastating consequences of untreated STDs underline the importance of early screening. In most cases, active-duty service members must be proactive about STI testing.
Resources for Service Members
Military service members often avoid discussing their sexual health or getting timely screenings because of the embarrassment and social stigma attached to STDs. It is important to know that STIs affect everyone. You can get an STD diagnosis even if you are in a long-term monogamous relationship.
Fortunately, military service members who want to achieve better sexual health and safer sex practices can access many resources and educational programs, such as:
- Army Public Health: A resource that focuses on STD and HIV prevention and women’s sexual health, including reproductive health and contraception
- SHARP (Navy & Marine Corps Sexual Health and Responsibility Program): Provides comprehensive resources on STD prevention, contraception, and more
- Targeted programs for the LGBTQ community in the military, like the Gay and Bisexual Men’s Sexual Health and Lesbian’s and Bisexual Women’s Health programs
Despite available military STD screening options, shame or self-consciousness may prevent service members from getting tested in military facilities. Independent outside testing can deliver quick, reliable results and protect your privacy more fully than military STD testing.
Rapid STD Testing runs a network of over 2,500 Test Centers that provide fast, accurate, and discreet screenings for all common STIs, with recommendations for confidential treatment.
Protect Your Sexual Health With Quick and Discreet STD Testing
Do you suspect you may have an STD? Did you have unprotected sex and need to be on the safe side to protect yourself and your partners? Get fast, confidential STI screening with Rapid STD Testing. Visit an STD testing center near you or order a 10-panel STD test today.