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...

Mobile app aids ‘truly informed’ contraception conversations between patients, providers

Article
3/11/2019
A new app provides information about contraception with the goal of helping patients make informed decisions with their providers. The app includes a module to address the unique needs of servicewomen around deployment. (Photo by Sgt. Barry St. Clair)

Decide + Be Ready, an app that provides information on contraception for men and women, is designed to help patients make informed decisions with their providers. The app also includes a module to address the unique needs of service women around deployment and duties.

Recommended Content:

Men's Health | Women's Health | Technology

Sudden cardiac death in young athletes

Article
3/7/2019
High school basketball requires skill and rigorous training. In rare but highly publicized cases, it can also bring cardiac issues to the surface. (U.S. Army photo by Chuck Gannon)

Sudden cardiac events can occur in seemingly healthy young people in their teens or twenties, including young servicemembers

Recommended Content:

Conditions and Treatments | Health Readiness | Heart Health | Preventive Health

Taking care of your heart with TRICARE benefits

Article
2/19/2019
February is nationally recognized as American Heart Month, a time for the Department of Defense community to show its love for healthy living.

Getting preventive screenings now could save your life tomorrow

Recommended Content:

Heart Health | Preventive Health

Stroke prevention awareness

Article
2/4/2019
Stroke prevention awareness graphic (U.S. Air Force graphic)

Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S.

Recommended Content:

Preventive 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

TRICARE Preventive Services

Video
1/14/2019
TRICARE Preventive Services

Watch this video to learn more about all the preventive services your TRICARE benefit covers.

Recommended Content:

TRICARE Health Program | Preventive Health

'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

A pain in the brain may be a migraine

Article
11/15/2018
Migraines affect women more than men with many options for treatment.

Women affected three times more frequently than men

Recommended Content:

Mental Health Care | Women's Health

Rare but preventable: Know the signs of Toxic Shock Syndrome

Article
10/31/2018
The sudden onset of a high fever and other symptoms may call for a visit to the emergency room to rule out toxic shock syndrome. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Xiomara M. Martinez)

Toxic Shock Syndrome is a dangerous, potentially fatal, condition with symptoms that often appear suddenly and quickly escalate. Although it’s not a common condition, prevalence can decrease even more through awareness, experts say

Recommended Content:

Women's Health

Women and depression

Article
10/30/2018
Mental health technicians assigned to the 48th Medical Group Mental Health Flight converse in the hospital reception area at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England. The Mental Health Flight is one of many resources available to assist with depression and other mental health concerns. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Shanice Williams-Jones)

1 in every 8 women develops clinical depression during her lifetime

Recommended Content:

Mental Wellness | Women's Health | Depression | Mental Health Care

Women's health remains priority for doctors turned medical museum volunteers

Article
10/25/2018
The National Museum of Health and Medicine promotes the science and history of medicine, with a special emphasis on tri-service American military medicine. The museum identifies, collects and preserves important and unique resources to support a broad agenda of innovative exhibits, educational programs and scientific, historical and medical research. The museum maintains a national landmark collection of objects that sustains and promotes military medical history, tradition, and research to the Department of Defense and civilian communities. (NMHM graphic)

The Handwerkers clearly enjoy volunteerism

Recommended Content:

Women's Health | National Museum of Health and Medicine

‘Strong progress’ in decreasing death from breast cancer

Article
10/23/2018
Air Force Lt. Col. Michelle Nash is joined by her husband and three of her four children at the Think Pink Fun Run, a breast cancer awareness event held earlier this month at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado. (Courtesy photo)

Improvements in detection, treatment pave the way

Recommended Content:

Women's Health

Military Midwives Advance Medicine

Video
10/23/2018
Military Midwives Advance Medicine

Military midwives assist in advancing military medicine. Capt. Brittany Hannigan uses educational opportunities to bring evidence-based practices to the patient's bedside.

Recommended Content:

Women's Health

Women’s Health: Taking time for yourself

Article
10/16/2018
Navy Lt. Jessica Miller, a nurse at Naval Hospital Jacksonville’s Obstetrics/Gynecology Clinic, discusses cervical cancer screenings with a patient. Starting at age 21, women should get a Pap test every three years. After turning 30, women have a choice. Get a Pap test every three years, or get a Pap and human papillomavirus (HPV) test every five years. Women should talk with their doctor about options. (U.S. Navy photo by Jacob Sippel)

The top two causes of death for women are heart disease and cancer

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health | Women's Health

Military midwives as educators

Video
10/15/2018
Military midwives as educators

Within the military, midwives serve as educators. Kwuan Paruchabutr shares how midwives ensure that all medical staff are well trained in women's health care.

Recommended Content:

Women's Health
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 9

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.