The phrase “sexual health” encompasses a range of public health and clinical issues related to prevention of sexually transmitted infections. I use the phrase a lot in my own work and its widening currency is a welcome new paradigm in our field. In fact, the concept of sexual health seems to me of fundamental relevance to all aspects of prevention of sexually transmitted infections.
All of the talk about sexual health doesn’t seem to have influenced the day-to-day particulars of our work. Sex still is primarily seen as a set of risk factors that we counsel against. I am convinced that this perspective on sex and sexuality as “risk” legitimates the stigma associated with sexually transmitted infections and contributes to our society’s poisonous intolerance of sexual diversity. A sexual health perspective incorporates the concept of personal and epidemiologic risks of sex, but recognizes the pervasive importance of sex in our lives.
What is Sexual Health?
Sexual health is the ability to embrace and enjoy our sexuality throughout our lives. It is an important part of our physical and emotional health. Being sexually healthy means:
- Understanding that sexuality is a natural part of life and involves more than sexual behavior.
- Recognizing and respecting the sexual rights we all share.
- Having access to sexual health information, education, and care.
- Making an effort to prevent unintended pregnancies and STDs and seek care and treatment when needed.
- Being able to experience sexual pleasure, satisfaction, and intimacy when desired.
- Being able to communicate about sexual health with others including sexual partners and healthcare providers.