Back to Top Skip to main content

Getting tested for STIs is an 'important part of sexual health'

Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Robert Hall studies a blood sample with a microscope at Naval Branch Health Clinic Kings Bay’s laboratory. Blood tests and pap smears are commonly used ways to diagnose sexually transmitted infections. (U.S. Navy photo by Jacob Sippel) Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Robert Hall studies a blood sample with a microscope at Naval Branch Health Clinic Kings Bay’s laboratory. Blood tests and pap smears are commonly used ways to diagnose sexually transmitted infections. (U.S. Navy photo by Jacob Sippel)

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health | Men's Health | Women's Health

FALLS CHURCH, Va. — Some may feel itching, burning, or pain, while others see physical signs. But more often than not, two of the most common sexually transmitted infections or STIs – chlamydia and gonorrhea – are ignored because of a lack of symptoms. Military Health System experts encourage men and women to take steps to ensure their health and prevent these infections.

“Many sexually transmitted infections do not have any symptoms, so getting tested regularly is an important part of sexual health,” said Rolando C. Diaz, epidemiology technician at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital in Northern Virginia.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 2 million cases of the most reported STIs – chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis – were reported in the United States in 2016. Those are the highest numbers ever recorded, the CDC said. These three conditions can be spread through vaginal, anal, or oral sex with an infected person, and can cause infection in the genitals, rectum, and throat.

“If you have had new partners or unprotected intercourse, or develop symptoms, talk to your provider about your concerns and exposures to help them order the correct tests to keep you and your sexual partner(s) healthy and safe,” said Diaz.

Commonly known as sexually transmitted diseases, most conditions are now referred to as sexually transmitted infections. Catherine A. Gangaas, a public health nurse at Fort Belvoir, said this term helps providers prevent further spread of the STI by looking for the cause of the infection, rather than just treating the disease.

“The change in terms came about when it was recognized that people could be infected and transmit the infection to others without ever developing symptoms or disease,” said Gangaas. It’s now recommended that women get tested every year during their annual exam rather than waiting for symptoms to appear, she said.

The September 2017 Medical Surveillance Monthly Report, or MSMR, said incidence rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea were highest among service members younger than 25. The report said STIs rates, with the exception of syphilis, were higher among women than men. According to the report, rates of gonorrhea decreased among female service members in 2016, but slightly increased among males. The rates of diagnosis for chlamydia among women were generally three to five times those among men.

The CDC said women can have a greater risk for an infection because the lining of the vagina is thin and delicate, making it vulnerable to bacteria and viruses. Women are also less likely to have symptoms for chlamydia and gonorrhea than men. If symptoms do occur, they can go away even if the infection remains.

Men can experience a burning sensation while urinating; painful or swollen testicles; and white, yellow, or green discharge. Symptoms in women, which are similar to those of a yeast infection, include increased vaginal discharge and a painful or burning sensation while urinating. Bleeding between periods can also be an indication of gonorrhea in women.

Gangaas said gonorrhea and chlamydia are often tested for together as they are often transferred together. These conditions are especially common among teenagers and young adults. It’s estimated that one in 20 sexually active young women 14-24 years old has chlamydia, said Diaz.

Both conditions are treated with antibiotics prescribed by a health care provider. Patients going through treatment are encouraged to refrain from sex because they can still infect others even during treatment, said Diaz.

“It takes seven days for the medication to treat these infections and only after this time is the chance of infecting others gone,” said Diaz, adding that the treatment won’t work if someone is re-exposed to chlamydia or gonorrhea and reinfected within that time. Using a condom during the treatment period can help lower risk of partners reinfecting each other – but there is no guarantee, he said.

People who have completed treatment for chlamydia or gonorrhea can also be re-infected, said Gangsaas. Lifestyle choices, such as not being in a mutually monogamous sexual relationship and not using condoms correctly 100 percent of the time, can increase risk for having an STI.

“Make sure you complete all medication prescribed by your health care provider, and ensure that your sex partner is both tested and treated,” said Gangaas. “It is important to be retested no sooner than three weeks after completing your medication to ensure that you are clear of the infection.”

If left untreated, gonorrhea and chlamydia can have serious consequences, including infertility or risk of being passed from a mother to a baby during pregnancy and delivery. When this occurs, the CDC said babies are at risk for still birth, low birth weight, brain damage, blindness, and deafness.

While rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea have increased among service members in recent years, the MSMR report found rates of human papillomavirus infections have decreased. If an HPV infection persists, it can cause genital warts or various types of cancer, including cervical cancer. Nearly 14 million new cases of HPV infections occur every year, but a vaccine is available to help reduce risk of an infection.

“Being informed about sexually transmitted infections is essential for a healthy sex life,” said Diaz. “For our patient population, this means knowing what they can do to stay safe and healthy, and how to directly ask their health care provider about testing.”


You also may be interested in...

Addressing emotional responses to threat of Coronavirus

Article
3/20/2020
U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Kathleen A. Myhre, 446th Airman and Family Readiness Center noncommissioned officer in charge, meditates outside the 446th Airlift Wing Headquarters building on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, Feb. 12, 2020. Myhre traveled to India in 2016 to study to become an internationally-certified yoga instructor. She now shares her holistic training with Reserve Citizen Airmen of the 446th AW. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Mary A. Andom)

Even if you’re feeling healthy, medical professionals recommend staying home and limiting social contact as much as possible

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health | Mental Wellness | Physical Activity | Combat Support | Public Health | Coronavirus | Coronavirus

Female, male service members, veterans recover from concussion differently

Article
3/6/2020
At an informal celebration at the AFWERX Vegas Innovation Hub earlier this month, U.S. Air Force personnel took delivery of four helmet designs that may each represent the next generation of fixed-wing aircrew equipment. In just nine months, the AFWERX innovations process generated tangible products for further Air Force testing and development. (U.S. Air Force photo by Nathan Riddle)

Female veterans may have a harder time performing some mental tasks after a mild traumatic brain injury or concussion

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury | Women's Health | Men's Health | Brain Injury Awareness

Total Force Fitness: advice you can sink your teeth into

Article
2/18/2020
Good dental hygiene is essential to keeping the armed forces healthy. Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Kyle Gladding, from Montgomery, Alabama, assigned to USS Gerald R. Ford's dental department, prepares a patient for a dental x-ray. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brigitte Johnston)

Healthy teeth are essential to a medically ready warfighter

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health | Total Force Fitness

HPV vaccine age limit raised by FDA to age 45

Article
1/14/2020
https://www.nfid.org/infectious-diseases/hpv/ Recent CDC and FDA guidance recommends that men and women up to 45 years of age get vaccinated to protect against the Human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection and can cause certain cancers and genital warts. More than 14 million new HPV infections occur in the U.S. each year, and about 80 percent of sexually active men and women are infected with HPV at some point in their lives. (National Foundation for Infectious Diseases image)

HPV shot protects against a host of diseases in men, women

Recommended Content:

Conditions and Treatments | Health Readiness | Preventive Health | Men's Health | Women's Health | Immunization Healthcare | Vaccine-Preventable Diseases | Vaccine Recommendations

Achievements in 2019 provide strong foundation for year ahead

Article
12/23/2019
A Year in Review: Year of Military Health 2019

Dedication, commitment to mission praised as changes continue

Recommended Content:

TRICARE Health Program | MHS GENESIS | Research and Innovation | Preventive Health | MHS Transformation

New 3-D mammogram option the next step in diagnosis, treatment

Article
12/19/2019
Chief Hospital Corpsman Naomi Perez, a certified mammogram technician (left), conducts a mammogram for a patient at Naval Hospital Pensacola. A mammogram is a low-dose X-ray procedure used to detect the early stages of breast cancer. A policy change effective Jan. 1, 2020, will allow digital breast tomosynthesis, or 3-D mammography, to be used to screen for breast cancer. The procedure – known technically as Digital Breast Tomosynthesis (DBT) – will be offered primarily to women age 40 and older, and women age 30 and older who are considered high-risk for breast cancer.  The procedure’s 3-D images provide a more thorough means of detecting the disease. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brannon Deugan)

Procedure would enhance effectiveness of breast cancer screening

Recommended Content:

TRICARE Health Program | Women's Health

3D Mammography Toolkit

Publication
12/19/2019

Recommended Content:

3-D Mammography | TRICARE Health Program | Women's Health

3D Mammography Infographic 2

Publication
12/16/2019

Share this infographic to spread the word about 3-D Mammography coverage

Recommended Content:

TRICARE Health Program | Women's Health | 3-D Mammography

3D Mammography Infographic 1

Publication
12/16/2019

Share this infographic to spread the word about 3-D Mammography coverage

Recommended Content:

TRICARE Health Program | Women's Health | 3-D Mammography

Talking_Points_3D_Mammography

Publication
12/16/2019

These talking points share information about 3-D mammography

Recommended Content:

TRICARE Health Program | Women's Health | 3-D Mammography

Award-winning Navy team successfully improves care for women, infants

Article
11/26/2019
Labor and Delivery providers were the front-line adopters of the Induction of Labor care pathway at Naval Medical Center San Diego. As of July 2019, over 80 percent of the hospital’s providers were using the pathway. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Joseph A. Boomhower)

An award-winning team of nurses successfully implemented a treatment guide at Naval Medical Center San Diego that improves labor and delivery outcomes

Recommended Content:

Military Hospitals and Clinics | Children's Health | Women's Health

The Defense Health Agency participates in AUSA 2019 annual meeting

Article
10/18/2019
U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Ronald Place, DHA Director, discusses upcoming Military Health System changes designed to improve the readiness of combat forces during a seminar held at the Association of the United States Army 2019 Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C.  Lt. Gen. Place explained how DHA is standardizing systems to improve healthcare across the enterprise.  (DHA Photo by Hannah Wagner)

Focus on quality care, innovation at home and on the battlefield

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Preventive Health

For a good grade on bone health, aim for D – vitamin D

Article
10/15/2019
An Army trainee at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, gets a bone density scan as part of a study with the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, Massachusetts, that's aimed at reducing musculoskeletal injuries. (Courtesy photo)

Women generally more deficient than men in this essential nutrient, studies find

Recommended Content:

Women's Health

Inclusion of Women and Minorities in the CDMRP

Congressional Testimony
10/7/2019

S. 3159 SAC Report for FY 2019, 115-290 Pg. 213-214

Recommended Content:

Women's Health

The Head, Hand, and Heart of Women’s Health

Article
10/4/2019
Maintaining peak health is critical for all military personnel. This month, we focus on women whose health concerns and symptoms may be different from those in men. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Roger Jackson)

Health is universal for military personnel and civilians, but some health concerns affect women differently. Here are a few examples.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Preventive Health | Women's Health
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 8

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.