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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
Pentagon Stresses Need for Chlamydia Testing
Sandra Jontz
October 31, 2003
Stars and Stripes (10.27.03) - Friday, October 31, 2003

Roughly half of female US military personnel who should be tested for chlamydia are not receiving the required exam, and a solution to the problem could still be three years away as health officials await a computer tracking system.

In 2001, all services implemented guidelines to routinely screen women for chlamydia, with the Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy testing all new recruits and the Army testing women upon arrival at the their first duty station. The military also adopted CDC recommendations to test women 25 and younger during routine annual exams.

But the data are not tracked. Instead, officials rely on independent studies to show where potential problems lie, said Navy Capt. Katherine Surman, director of women's health policy for the Pentagon Health Affairs office. Women listed at-risk for chlamydia are those age 25 and younger and those who are sexually active.

In a Defense Department study conducted between April 2000 and March 2001, just 41 percent of active-duty women were tested during the one-year period. Researchers studied 163,299 sexually active women ages 16-26 enrolled in the military health system, which included civilians, active duty and dependents. Women ages 16-20 had a 34 percent testing rate, and women ages 21-36 had a 28 percent testing rate.

"We do need to do [a] better job of getting the word out to troops about sexually transmitted diseases and how to protect yourself," Surman acknowledged, adding that more men can now expect to be tested for chlamydia with the adoption of easy urine exams. "It happens to them as well, and they deserve to be treated." According to Surman, the PHA office is working on a system to ensure that all female patients receive the proper care, and it is pinning its hopes on the new computer tracking system Composite Health Care System II. CHCS II is a computerized medical and dental record database the Pentagon expects to install at all the department medical facilities starting in January. However, the process is expected to take three years.