Officer J.'s story is not unusual. I've heard the same thing from scores of other active-duty service members I've cared for clinically or interacted with socially. During a 2-month period in 2002, active-duty U.S. Navy sailors accounted for 9% of the clients of a gay men's health clinic in San Diego that was run by a community-based organization.1 And that clinic's experience and my own reflect the needs of only those service members who take advantage of nonmilitary health care facilities; according to recent estimates, gays, lesbians, and bisexuals in the military number 66,000, or 2.2% of all military personnel.2 How many of them have no access to nonmilitary medical care? How many simply don't seek it?

Brief summary:
--homosexual members of the military cannot rely on military medical care due to fears of revealing their sexual history
--they do not receive appropriate counseling and recommended screening on STDs
--even though the military prohibited military medical personnel from disclosing sexual history (policy just implemented THIS YEAR), many doctors and military personnel do not know this policy
--public notification of partners in certain STDs is required. However, military personnel sometimes make up partners (heterosexual) to satisfy the requirement, while they may or may not notify the REAL (homosexual) partner
--this may cross into civilian populations (as military homosexual personnel often frequent local bars and clubs) which becomes a public health issue
--increased risk of HIV acquisition hurts the military (rarely can HIV+ personnel be deployed to active combat missions)

We can do better for our service members, our military, and our country by allowing gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members to serve openly. To fail to do so, I believe, violates their constitutional rights. But it also, in very real ways, threatens their health — and that of the community at large.