Skip to main content

Military Health System

DOD initiatives address the sexual health of our military

Image of a bacterium. Image of a bacterium

Recommended Content:

Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division | Health Readiness & Combat Support | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Men's Health | Women's Health | Sexually Transmitted Infection Prevention

When it comes to sexual health statistics and the military, there is promising news – and concerning news. However, the Department of Defense has initiatives in place to address the concerning news with broad efforts to promote sexual health among all personnel.

“Rates of viral infections like human papillomavirus [HPV] and genital herpes have been trending down in recent years,” explained Dr. Jose Sanchez, deputy chief of the Defense Health Agency's Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division, about the promising news.

Sanchez noted that from 2011 to 2019, the incidence of HPV infection decreased by almost 50 percent among all active component service members, likely as a result of the introduction of the HPV vaccine. Although the vaccine can be started as young as age 9, it’s typically recommended for children between 11 or 12 and everyone through age 26. In 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the vaccine for men and women up to age 45, based on their risk of infection.

In the military, the HPV vaccine is encouraged and recommended, but not mandatory. Sanchez said the percentage of eligible service men who initiated the HPV vaccine increased to about 3.1% in 2017 from almost zero in 2010. But the percentage of eligible service women who initiated the HPV vaccine declined over that same time – to 5.7% from 10.3%, he said.

“This could be due to more women receiving the HPV vaccine prior to military service,” Sanchez said. “But if fewer service women are initiating and completing the HPV vaccine prior to and during military service, this could result in a resurgence of infections.”

Another good news story is that the incidence of human immunodeficiency virus infection among service members has remained low in recent years, at around 2 per 10,000 tested, Sanchez said. This might be due in part to DHA’s initiatives to provide information and promote sexual health among all service members through their different clinical communities.

The concerning news is that rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea have generally been on the rise in the U.S. military. According to the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch’s Medical Surveillance Medical Report from March 2019, the incident rates of infection of chlamydia and gonorrhea among active U.S. military members between 2010 and 2018 showed an increase among both males and females in the latter half of the surveillance period.

“But at least rates in the military recently leveled off or decreased between 2018 and 2019, which is promising,” Sanchez said.

Military health personnel preparing tools for a medial procedure
Angelica Lopez, a medical assistant assigned to Naval Medical Center San Diego’s OB-GYN, prepares for a contraception procedure at the hospital Sept. 14. (Photo by Navy Seaman Luke Cunningham, Naval Medical Center San Diego.)

Sanchez said sexual health is highly relevant to the military because service members tend to be young – the most likely to be affected by sexually-transmitted infections. However, STIs are not unique to a specific age group or gender.

“STIs are increasing in older populations, when risk of pregnancy is gone, but the knowledge of safer sexual practices may not be as well known,” said Army Lt. Col. (Dr.) Erin Keyser, the Army representative for DHA’s Woman and Infant Clinical Community (WICC) at Brooke Army Medical Center, in San Antonio. “Education and screening related to STIs should occur across all the years of sexual activity.”

STIs are important to identify and treat because they can impact service members’ health and readiness, as well as their ability to perform their duties. DHA’s clinical communities work together to provide outreach, information, and educational material about common health concerns – such as STIs and overall sexual health – to ensure everyone gets the same message.

For example, the Military Specific Clinical Community, the Primary Care Clinical Community, and WICC work in partnership to share leading practices and standardized practice models on health issues common to all service members, such as sexual health. PCCC – with a mission to support routine and required screening of health care effective measures – identifies and treats STIs, including HIV, hepatitis C, and HPV, explained Keyser.

WICC leverages technology to provide information resources to beneficiaries more broadly. The Deployment Readiness Education for Service Women mobile application and handbook, anticipated for release in the fall, will make DRES content applicable to all services on Android and Apple platforms.

“The DRES app is designed to enhance the knowledge of women’s health and provide education on topics throughout the female lifespan, to include sexual health and safe sex practices for all types of couples,” said Keyser.

WICC has also partnered with the DHA Connected Health Branch to create a series of podcasts on women’s health issues to be released in the spring.

“The podcasts target providers taking care of active-duty female service members and female beneficiaries and focus on clinical and deployment readiness, including information on the HPV vaccine, female deployment, breastfeeding, postpartum depression, and infertility, among others,” said Keyser.

WICC’s focus is mainly for female beneficiaries, with an emphasis on empowering women through knowledge. “When we teach women and empower them about sexual health, women can then share and discuss this knowledge with all those around them including their partners, friends, colleagues, and communities,” said Air Force Lt. Col. (Dr.) Larissa Weir, Air Force representative for WICC at BAMC.

“Sexual health is an individual responsibility and a shared responsibility within a couple. Empowering both partners expands knowledge and healthy behaviors,” added Weir.

Community-based care

To make this knowledge available to all MHS beneficiaries, there are over 30 DOD walk-in contraception clinics across MHS. These provide STI screening and treatment as well as allow women immediate access to a full spectrum of contraception.

Additionally, many of the military treatment facilities provide local sexual health awareness and services. At Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune, in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, the Community Health Clinic (CHC) provides STI testing, treatment, and prevention services, including medication such as HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis for active-duty service members at moderate to high risk, said Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Kameron Jacobs, hospital corpsman at the clinic who leads the command’s Sexual Health Awareness and Responsibility Program.

Image of a stack of IUDs in round containers
An intrauterine device, shown at Naval Medical Center San Diego. There are more than 30 DOD walk-in contraception clinics across Military Health System that provide STI screening and treatment as well as allow women immediate access to a full spectrum of contraception. (Photo by Navy Seaman Luke Cunningham, Naval Medical Center San Diego.)

“This walk-in clinic has provided high-quality disease intervention and care to over 6,000 patients since its opening in April of 2019,” said Jacobs. “Additionally, SHARP regularly conducts trainings for health care providers and others to ensure medical teams are proficient and equitable in their practice.”

Following the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Talk. Test. Treat.” campaign for decreasing instances of STIs, the CHC offers tailored in-person preventive counseling and education to each patient who walks in the door, preventive “conscious checks” or screening testing for active-duty service members to check-up on their sexual health, and highly effective treatment as soon as possible to significantly reduce their chance of spreading STIs and preventing chronic, irreversible conditions from developing.

“Taking the time to talk with service members about their sexual health and identifying areas where risk can be reduced is an essential step in disease prevention,” said Jacobs. “Service members come from all over the United States with a variety of sexual health education backgrounds. Establishing a baseline of knowledge and encouraging safer goal behaviors continues to be the primary mission of community health at both the personal and enterprise level.”

MARSH Study

For Air Force Maj. (Dr.) Ryan Landoll, assistant dean for preclinical sciences at the Uniformed Services University for Health Sciences and principal investigator of the Military Active-duty Reproductive & Sexual Health (MARSH) research program, inclusivity is another important aspect.

“It’s very important that we think of comprehensive sexual and reproductive health that is considerate of all our service members,” said Landoll. “The focus is on total force health.”

The MARSH study broadly focuses on working to decrease STIs and unplanned pregnancies using a mobile health intervention application to target health risky sexual behaviors. Landoll and his team developed the innovative Mission Wellness mobile app to provide all service members an array of interactive educational tools and information on sexual health with a focus on motivation and behavioral skills, such as future-oriented thinking.

The app includes narrative videos and interactive activities to facilitate difficult conversations surrounding sexual health with a partner, a supervisor, or a health care provider and to spur users to think about the consequences that unhealthy sexual behaviors today could have on their lives and careers. While the app is only available for download for participants in the MARSH study, the hope upon completion is that it will serve as an equitable resource where all service members can anonymously and in their own time advocate for their own sexual health.

“The user has the ability to design their own avatar to walk through the app with, and all the education elements have been designed with a very intentional focus on inclusivity,” said Landoll. “Our app is always focused on behaviors, understanding that there are risky behaviors, not risky identities or individuals.”

You also may be interested in...

Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center Annual Report

Report
12/15/2015

In this annual report, you will see that the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center continued to make significant strides in supporting public health surveillance for the Department of Defense to maintain the health and readiness of its forces, and contribute to the global health security of its allies.

Recommended Content:

Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division | AFHSD Reports and Publications

DoD Instruction 6490.13: Comprehensive Policy on Traumatic Brain Injury-Related Neurocognitive Assessments by the Military Services

Policy

This instruction establishes policy, assigns responsibilities, and prescribes standard elements, pursuant to section 722 of Public Law 111-383, requiring the implementation of a comprehensive neurocognitive assessment policy in the Military Services.

Cervical Cancer

Publication
9/1/2015

This case definition was developed in 2010 by the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center (AFHSC) in collaboration with a working group of subject matter experts from the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs (ASDHA), the United States Army Public Health Command (USAPHC) and the United States Military Cancer Institute. The definition was developed for the purpose of epidemiological surveillance of invasive cancers and was used in a June 2012 Medical Surveillance Monthly Report (MSMR) article on incident diagnoses of cancers.

Recommended Content:

Women's Health | Cervical Cancer

Human Subject Research at Fort Detrick

Report
5/8/2015

The U.S. Army established its offensive Biological Warfare program at Fort Detrick in 1943. The purpose of the program was twofold: develop defensive mechanisms against biological attack and develop weapons with which the United States could respond “in kind” if attacked by an enemy who used biological weapons.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Environmental Exposures | Cold War

Edgewood Arsenal Chemical Agent Exposure Studies

Report
5/8/2015

Edgewood Arsenal has been the center of chemical warfare research and development since 1918. Therefore, it is not surprising that Edgewood Arsenal became the research hub for chemical agent testing on human subjects from 1955 through 1975. The great majority of the use of volunteers in medical (chemical) research occurred at this installation.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Environmental Exposures | Cold War

Field Testing of Hallucinogenic Agents

Report
5/8/2015

Hallucinogenic agents (principally LSD) were tested on human subjects primarily at Edgewood Arsenal. The aim of this experimentation was to determine the effects of these chemicals on the nervous systems and mental functions of individuals and to evaluate preventive and therapeutic (treatment) agents to combat these effects.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Environmental Exposures | Cold War

Mustard Disaster at Bari

Report
5/8/2015

Bari lies along the Adriatic Sea at the top of the heel of the boot of Italy (See Figure 1). During World War II, the port of Bari was under the jurisdiction of the British and was the main supply base for General Montgomery’s Eighth Army as well as the headquarters for the American Fifteenth Air Force which was activated in November 1943.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Environmental Exposures | Cold War

Patient Global Impression Change Scale

Form/Template
5/1/2015

Form filled out by patients to rate their changes in activity, symptoms, emotions and quality of life.

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Health Readiness & Combat Support | Disability Evaluation | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence

Neurobehavioral Symptom Inventory Form

Form/Template
4/30/2015

Form used by providers to question patients about their symptoms

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Disability Evaluation | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | Health Readiness & Combat Support

Military Acute Concussion Evaluation 2012

Form/Template
4/30/2015

Use this form to screen for concussions

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Disability Evaluation | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | Health Readiness & Combat Support

Decision Brief on Ethical Guidelines and Practices for U.S. Military Medical Professionals

Presentation
2/11/2015

Decision Brief on Ethical Guidelines and Practices for U.S. Military Medical Professionals presented to the Defense Health Board

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support

Embedded Fragment Analyses

Policy

Clarification of the Requirement for Continuation of Semi-Annual Reporting of Results of Embedded Fragment Analyses

MSMR Vol. 22 No. 11 - November 2015

Report
1/1/2015

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Rates of acute respiratory illnesses of infectious and allergic etiologies after permanent changes of duty assignments, active component, U.S. Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps, January 2005–September 2015; Completeness and timeliness of reporting of notifiable medical conditions, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2008–2014.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 22 No. 10 - October 2015

Report
1/1/2015

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Chikungunya infection in DoD healthcare beneficiaries following the 2013 introduction of the virus into the Western Hemisphere, 1 January 2014 to 28 February 2015; Update: Cold weather injuries, active and reserve components, U.S. Armed Forces, July 2010-June 2015; Surveillance snapshot: Influenza immunization among U.S. Armed Forces healthcare workers, August 2010-April 2015.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 22 No. 12 - December 2015

Report
1/1/2015

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Follow-up analysis of the incidence of acute respiratory infections among enlisted service members during their first year of military service before and after the 2011 resumption of adenovirus vaccination of basic trainees; Diagnoses of low back pain, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2010–2014; Brief report: Incidence of diagnoses using ICD-9 codes specifying chronic pain (not neoplasm related) in the primary diagnostic position, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2007–2014.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Public Health
<< < ... 36 37 38 39 40  ... > >> 
Showing results 526 - 540 Page 36 of 52
Refine your search
Last Updated: December 28, 2022
Follow us on Instagram Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on YouTube Sign up on GovDelivery