Can You Join The Military With An STD?

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If you want to serve in the military but have an STD, you’re probably wondering how that will impact your military career. Can you join the military with an STD? The short answer is it depends. The army tests for all kinds of disqualifying conditions at the Military Entrance Processing Center (MEPS). Depending on the severity of your condition, you may or may not be able to join the military. 

Depending on the disease, military doctors can give exemptions to those that want to serve. With STD’s on the rise in the military, this is a question that many new recruits have but may be too embarrassed to ask. In 2012 alone, STD’s in the Navy cost the military 5.4million dollars in health care expenses. STD’s affect individual readiness, which bleeds into unit effectiveness and reduces the overall efficacy of the military. In this article, we’ll look at the different policies on STDs in the military and help you figure out if you can join regardless.

What Is The Military Policy On STD?

When it comes to disqualifying recruits for medical reasons, usually it’s for a condition that impacts military readiness. If your STD doesn’t affect your health or ability to physically exert yourself at a high level, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to join. With advancements in technology and medical research, there are many STDs that you can still lead a normal life with. Ultimately, this will come down to your examination at MEPS and your discussion with the military doctor.

Thanks to our advanced medical system, STDs rarely cause any lost duty time. However, this wasn’t the case in World War I. The army lost over 7 million workdays due to soldiers being diagnosed with STDs, classified as “personal diseases” back then. The significant loss of productivity led to the military creating an awareness and prevention campaign to reduce the amount of manpower lost per year to STDs. Since World War I, treatments and education about STDs have evolved dramatically, which allows the military to be more flexible in how they handle new recruits who have STDs and want to serve.

If you want to join the military with an STD, the first step you should take is getting treated. If you see a doctor and have an established care plan in place, it’s easier for you to explain your situation to the doctor at MEPS. Alternatively, you can show up at the processing center, explain your situation to the doctor, and see what they say. However, if you do this, you’re at risk of getting denied. Seeking treatment that allows you to manage your STD to the point where it has no impact on your health is the ideal first step.

Don’t Expect Privacy

If you have an STD and want to join the military, don’t be surprised if your medical condition doesn’t stay private. Once you report your condition to the military, it essentially becomes their information. If you get an STD while serving in the field, your positive test will get reported to public health officials. Be prepared to deal with jokes, remarks, and rumors surrounding your health. The military offers counseling sessions that help people learn about their disease and how best to keep it contained.

Example Of Disqualifying STDs

Viral Hepatitis

Viral hepatitis or any unspecified hepatitis can disqualify you from joining the military. If you have symptoms 6 months after your diagnosis or evidence of impaired liver function, there’s a good chance viral hepatitis can disqualify you from the military. However, if you receive a medical evaluation and show no signs or symptoms of the disease, you can get an exemption that allows you to serve.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

Both acute and chronic pelvic inflammatory diseases can prevent you from joining the military. If you’re able to catch the disease early in its development, you can treat it with a course of antibiotics or a hospital stay for severe cases. The longer you wait to get pelvic inflammatory disease treated, the more damage gets done to your reproductive system. Pelvic inflammatory disease can cause serious symptoms, which makes it a likely disqualifier for military service.


If you have herpes, you’ll need to prove that your treatment is effective before being allowed to join the military. Thanks to the advancement of medical technology, herpes is much more treatable today than it was in the past. Soldiers that get herpes while serving are given a course of medication for up to 180 days. If your herpes are severe enough to cause serious symptoms and resist conventional treatment, you likely won’t join the military.

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