By Debbie Gregory.
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are on the rise, and those serving in the military are just as much, if not more, at risk as the civilian population.
Previously, the war on STDs was being won, with historically low rates of diseases such as syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea.
Undetected STDs can lead to serious health consequences, and since they frequently show no symptoms, experts recommend that all sexually active people also should be tested if they’ve had sex with a new partner or multiple partners, or their partners did.
Despite free health care, free condoms and chlamydia screenings, the military has significantly higher STD rates than the civilian populations.
For obvious reasons, the military takes disease seriously — which also owes to the historical struggle between the forces and infection.
In World War I, the military discharged more than 10,000 soldiers because of STDs. During World War II, the War Department distributed condoms to troops and embarked on a massive propaganda campaign, which helped.
But the invention of penicillin and better screening were the main reasons why STDs ceased to be a significant threat to the military.
Living in a high-risk environment could lead to more risky behaviors. The fact that military personnel deploy globally, and to countries with weak or non-existent health systems, doesn’t help.
Also, when you take thousands of twenty-somethings with raging hormones away from their hometowns and pack them onto military bases, unleash them on the weekends, add in alcohol, and load up their smartphones with hookup apps like Tinder and Grindr, perhaps that is all the research you need to do to understand the “why.”
Now we need to figure how to get the ounce of prevention message out to these servicemembers, for their own good.
For anyone concerned that they may have been exposed to an STD, it is imperative to seek medical care right away. Chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis are all bacterial infections and therefore curable with antibiotics. But in order to be treated for these STDs, a person must first be diagnosed.