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Study: Military Women At Higher Risk For STDs

Female Marines
Female Marines

Military women are more likely to contract sexually transmitted infections (STIs) than civilian women because of risky sexual behaviors, according to a new study.

The study's author, Dr. Vinita Goyal of Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island, says the the rates of STIs are seven times higher for military women than those in the general population. The main reason? Goyal says unsafe sex:

"Studies indicate a high prevalence of risky sexual behaviors - including inconsistent condom use, multiple sexual partners, and binge drinking – that lead to unintended and unsafe sex.

"These high-risk sexual practices likely contribute to chlamydia infection rates that are higher than the rates in the general U.S. population. Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection and cervical dysplasia may also be higher among young, active duty servicewomen."
One study used by Goyal for her research found 14 percent of women entering the military tested positive for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis. The rate for the general population is 8 percent.

Goyal discovered some interesting reasons why military women might not press their partners to wear condoms:

"(Navy) women reported feeling stigmatized as promiscuous if they requested condoms and believed their male counterparts to be exempt from the same criticism. They also reported not using condoms because if found, it would be evidence that they were violating the military policy that prohibits sexual activity when deployed."

The study, "High-Risk Behavior and Sexually Transmitted Infections among U.S. Active Duty Servicewomen and Veterans," was published in the Journal of Women's Health.

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