Learn How To Prevent Sexually Transmitted Infections

  • Published
  • By TRICARE Communications

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), sometimes called sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), can affect anyone who is sexually active. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 in 5 people in the United States have an STI.

STI rates steadily increased among active duty service members between 2014 and 2022, as reported on Health.mil. This mirrors the rising rate of STIs in the U.S. population generally.

“STIs are on the rise across the nation, and we want to make sure beneficiaries know how they can protect themselves against infection,” said Dr. Ross Colt, medical director of Clinical Oversight and Integration for the TRICARE Health Plan. “To help reduce infection risk and catch STIs early, TRICARE covers STI vaccination, testing, and counseling.”

The only way to eliminate your risk of STIs is to not have sex. But if you’re sexually active, there are some steps you can take to lower your risk.

Get vaccinated

There’s a simple way to lower your risk of STIs and related complications: Get the human papillomavirus (HPV) and hepatitis B vaccines.

The HPV vaccine lowers your risk of getting HPV, which can cause genital warts and certain types of cancer. TRICARE covers the HPV vaccine for men and women.

The hepatitis B vaccine protects against hepatitis B, a serious disease that can cause liver cancer and liver failure. This three-dose series, which is recommended for all age groups, is typically started at birth.

TRICARE covers age-appropriate vaccine doses, as recommended by the CDC. You can get these vaccines at military hospitals or clinics, a TRICARE-authorized provider, or at some participating network pharmacies. Learn more about TRICARE immunizations and where to get them.

Get tested

Many STIs don’t cause you to show symptoms, so it’s possible to transmit an STI without even knowing you have one. If you’re sexually active, getting tested regularly for STIs is critical to protecting your health and your partners’ health.

TRICARE covers STI testing when it’s medically necessary. If you’re enrolled in TRICARE Prime or TRICARE Select, TRICARE covers certain STI screenings as part of the annual Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (HP&DP) exam.

These screenings include tests for:

  • Syphilis
  • Chlamydia and gonorrhea (for sexually active women under age 24, or otherwise at increased risk)
  • HIV (for those between ages 15–65, or otherwise at increased risk)
  • Hepatitis B and C (for adults at increased risk)

During your HP&DP exam, your provider can also advise you on how you can help lower your STI risk.

As detailed in the TRICARE Costs and Fees Fact Sheet, if you have TRICARE Prime, you’ll pay nothing for preventive care visits. In most cases, you also won’t need a referral or pre-authorization.

If you have TRICARE Select, you’ll pay nothing for preventive services received from network providers. But if you see a non-network provider, you may have cost-shares for some screenings.

Practice safer sex

In addition to getting tested regularly, there are a few safer sex practices you can follow to protect against STIs:

  • Discuss STIs with your sexual partners. Ask your partners when they were last tested for STIs and let them know your STI status.
  • Use a condom correctly every time you have oral, vaginal, or anal sex. Condoms are available for free, without a prescription, to service members at all military hospitals and clinics. Condoms also help reduce the chance of pregnancy.
  • Limit your number of sexual partners. You’re less likely to get an STI if you have sex with the same, uninfected partner.

Learn about HIV prevention

Everyone who is sexually active may be at risk for HIV. But some groups are at increased risk.

If you’re concerned about your HIV risk, ask your provider about HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). PrEP is a medication that helps prevent HIV infection. When taken as directed, it reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by about 99%.

TRICARE covers PrEP in its oral form (a daily pill). Your provider can give you more information if you think PrEP may be right for you.

Your provider can also help you plan ways to reduce your risk, practice safer sex, or get the right medication to prevent or treat an STI. You can also learn more about ways to get on the path to good sexual health.

Do you have questions about STI prevention or treatment? Ask your doctor at your next primary care visit.

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