Self-Reported Sexually Transmitted Infections and Sexual Risk Behaviors in the US Military: How Sex Influences Risk

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Abstract

Background

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are prevalent in the US military. However, there are limited data on risk-factor differences between sexes.

Methods

We used data from the 2008 Department of Defense Survey of Health Related Behaviors among active duty military personnel to identify risk factors for self-reported STIs within the past 12 months and multiple sexual partners among sexually active unmarried service members.

Results

There were 10,250 active duty personnel, mostly white (59.3%) aged 21 to 25 years (42.6%). The prevalence of any reported STI in the past 12 months was 4.2% for men and 6.9% for women. One-fourth of men and 9.3% of women reported 5 or more sexual partners in the past 12 months. Binge drinking, illicit substance use, and unwanted sexual contact were associated with increased report of sexual partners among both sexes. Family/personal-life stress and psychological distress influenced number of partnerships more strongly for women than for men (Adjusted Odds Ratio [AOR]=1.58, 95% Confidence Interval [CI]=1.18–2.12 and AOR=1.41, 95% CI=1.14–1.76, respectively). After adjusting for potential confounders, we found that the report of multiple sexual partners was significantly associated with the report of an STI among men (AOR, 5.87 [95% CI, 3.70–9.31], for ≥5 partners; AOR, 2.35 [95% CI, 1.59–3.49], for 2–4 partners) and women (AOR, 4.78 [95% CI, 2.12–10.80], for ≥5 partners; AOR, 2.35 [95% CI, 1.30–4.25], for 2–4 partners).

Conclusions

Factors associated with the report of increasing sexual partnerships and report of an STI differed by sex. Sex-specific intervention strategies may be most effective in mitigating the factors that influence risky sexual behaviors among military personnel.

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