HEALTH / WELL-BEING

Lifetime Sexual Assault and Sexually Transmitted Infections Among Women Veterans

Article

Women veterans report a high prevalence of sexual assault. This article evaluates the association between completed lifetime sexual assault (LSA) and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among a cohort of women veterans, adjusting for sexual risk behaviors.

Abstract

Objective: Women veterans report a high prevalence of sexual assault. Unfortunately, there are limited data on the reproductive health sequelae faced by these women. Our objective was to evaluate the association between completed lifetime sexual assault (LSA) and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among a cohort of women veterans, adjusting for sexual risk behaviors. Materials and Methods: We conducted a retrospective study among women veterans aged 51 years or younger who enrolled for care at two Veterans Administration (VA) healthcare sites between 2000 and 2008. Participants completed a telephone interview assessing reproductive health and sexual violence history. We compared the frequencies of past STI diagnoses among those who had and had not experienced LSA. We used logistic regression to assess the effect of sexual assault with history of an STI diagnosis after adjusting for age, sexual risk behaviors, and substance abuse treatment. Results: Among 996 women veterans, a history of STIs was reported by 32%, including a lifetime history of gonorrhea (5%), chlamydia (15%), genital herpes infection (8%), and human papillomavirus infection (15%), not mutually exclusive; 51% reported LSA. Women with a history of LSA were significantly more likely to report a history of STIs (unadjusted odds ratio [OR] 1.91, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.45–2.50; adjusted OR 1.49, 95% CI 1.07–2.08). Conclusions: Women veterans who have experienced LSA are at increased risk for lifetime STI diagnoses. To adequately address the reproductive health needs of the growing population of women veterans, STI risk assessments should include queries of military service and LSA histories.

Full Reference

Goyal, V., Mengeling, M.A., Booth, B.M., Torner, J.D., Syrop, C.H., Sadler, A.G., 2017. Lifetime Sexual Assault and Sexually Transmitted Infections Among Women Veterans. Journal of Women's Health, 26(7), pp.745-754.