Self-reported sexually transmitted infections and sexual risk behaviors in the U.S. Military: how sex influences risk

Sex Transm Dis. 2014 Jun;41(6):359-64. doi: 10.1097/OLQ.0000000000000133.


Background: Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are prevalent in the U.S. 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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Military Personnel* / psychology
  • Military Personnel* / statistics & numerical data
  • Odds Ratio
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Risk-Taking
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology
  • Sexual Behavior / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sexual Partners* / psychology
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / prevention & control
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • United States / epidemiology