A new study indicates the sexual health of some American military members may be at risk. Researchers at Rhode Island's Women and Infants Hospital have found women actively serving in the military are more likely to participate in high-risk sexual practices and have an increased risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
"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," explained lead researcher Vinita Goyal, M.D. "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."
Goyal analyzed findings from previous research and found that STI rates are seven times higher among military women than civilians. Additionally, her research revealed many female military members often don't use condoms. Only 33 percent of sexually active unmarried active duty women in the armed forces reported using condoms during their last sexual encounter.
Many also admit to having multiple sexual partners. In fact, nearly 60 percent reported having more than one partner within the last year. A separate study revealed that 27 percent of servicewomen had several different partners in the previous 90 days.
Previous research by Goyal suggested that policies prohibiting sexual activity while deployed with the military may prevent some servicewomen from seeking birth control options.
"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," she explained.
Researchers admit that STI infection rates among women in the military may be elevated because the military requires recruits to be tested upon enlisting.