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Issues and Concerns of Sexual Health

Understanding the Importance of Sexual Health
Concerns of reproductive health
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), sexual or reproductive health refers to the state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and coital relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable, safe and satisfying experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence. At this point, it is imperative to state that, a healthy pareunia relations contribute greatly to your sense of well-being.

In addition to the above definition, sexual health could also mean the ability to embrace and enjoy our sexuality throughout our lives. It is an important and an integral 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 or unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and seek care and treatment when needed,
  • Being able to experience coital pleasure, satisfaction, and intimacy when desired, and
  • Being able to communicate about sexual health with others including partners and healthcare providers.

The terms "Sexual health" is very broad as it encompasses many inter-related areas, challenges and problems. Some of the most important issues and concerns of sexual health are,

  • Human rights related to sexual health,
  • Sexual pleasure, eroticism, and sexual satisfaction,
  • Diseases (HIV/AIDS, STIs, RTIs),
  • Violence,
  • Coercion,
  • Discrimination,
  • Female genital mutilation,
  • Sexual dysfunction, and
  • Mental health related to sexual health.

List of sexual health concerns and problems
Reproductive health
From a meeting held in Antigua, Guatemala in May 2000, some groups of  experts convened by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and WHO in collaboration with the World Association for Sexology (WAS), where they resolved and compiled an overview of sexual concerns and problems that should be addressed in order to advance sexual health (PAHO/WHO 2000).

Sexual health concerns are serious life situations, some are even life threatening  that can be addressed through education about sexuality and society-wide actions in order to promote the sexual health of individuals. The health sector has a critical role to play in assessment, and in providing counselling, information and care. Lack of sexual health information and services make young people vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unintended pregnancy.

Sexual health concerns

There are lots of concerns that have risen over time as regards to sexual health. These concerns have been grouped into various categories as listed below.

1. Sexual health concerns related to body integrity and to sexual safety:

  • Need for health-promoting behaviours for early identification of sexual problems (e.g. regular check-ups and health screening, breast and testicular self-scans),
  • Need for freedom from all forms of sexual coercion and sexual violence (including rape, sexual abuse and harassment),
  • Need for freedom from body mutilations (e.g. female genital mutilation),
  • Need for freedom from contracting or transmitting STIs (including HIV),
  • Need for reduction of sexual consequences of physical or mental disabilities, and
  • Need for reduction of impact on sexual life of medical and surgical conditions or treatments.

2. Sexual health concerns related to gender:

  • Need for gender equality,
  • Need for freedom from all forms of discrimination based on gender, and
  • Need for respect and acceptance of gender differences.

3. Sexual health concerns related to sexual orientation:

  • Need for freedom from discrimination based on someone's orientation, and
  • Need for freedom to express one's orientation in safe and responsible manners within a values framework that is respectful of the rights of others.

4. Sexual health concerns related to emotional attachment:

  • Need for freedom from exploitative, coercive, violent or manipulative relationships,
  • Need for information regarding choices or family options and lifestyles,
  • Need for skills, such as decision-making, communication, assertiveness and negotiation, that enhance personal relationships, and
  • Need for respectful and responsible expression of love and divorce.

5. Sexual health concerns related to reproduction:

  • Need to make informed and responsible choices about reproduction,
  • Need to make responsible decisions and practices regarding reproductive behaviour regardless of age, sex and marital status,
  • Access to reproductive health care,
  • Access to safe motherhood, and
  • Prevention of and care for infertility.

Sexual health problems

Sexual health problems are the results of conditions, either in an individual, a relationship or a society, that require specific action for their identification, prevention and treatment.

The expert working group of PAHO/WHO proposed a syndromic approach to classification that makes problems easier to identify by both health workers and the general public, and easier to report for epidemiological considerations.

All of these sexual health problems can be identified by primary health workers. Some can be addressed by trained health workers at a primary level, but for others referral to a specialist is necessary.

Clinical syndromes that impair sexual functioning (sexual dysfunction) such as sexual aversion, dysfunctional sexual arousal and vaginismus in females, and erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation in males.

Clinical syndromes related to impairment of emotional attachment or love (paraphilias) such as exhibitionism, paedophilia, sadism and voyeurism.
Reproductive health

Clinical syndromes related to compulsive sexual behaviour such as compulsive sexual behaviour in a relationship.

Clinical syndromes involving gender identity conflict such as adolescent gender dysphoria.

Clinical syndromes related to violence and victimization such as,

  • clinical syndromes after being sexually abused as a child (including post-traumatic stress disorder),
  • clinical syndromes after being sexually harassed,
  • clinical syndromes after being violated or raped,
  • clinical phobia focused on sexuality, and
  • patterns of unsafe sexual behaviour placing s and/or others at risk for HIV infection or/and other STIs.
Clinical syndromes related to reproduction such as sterility, infertility, unwanted or unplanned pregnancy, abortion complications.

Clinical syndromes related to sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as genital ulcers, urethral, vaginal or rectal discharge, lower abdominal pain in women, asymptomatic STIs.

Clinical syndromes related to other conditions such as clinical syndromes secondary to disability or infirmity, secondary to mental or physical illness, secondary to medication.

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