According to the World Health Organization, the current working definition of sexual health is:”… a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being concerning sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships and the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences free of coercion, discrimination, and violence. For sexual health to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected, and fulfilled.” (WHO, 2006a)
Sexual health is fundamental to the overall health and well-being of individuals, couples, and families and the social and economic development of communities and countries. Sexual health, when viewed affirmatively, requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships and the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences free of coercion, discrimination, and violence. The ability of men and women to achieve sexual health and well-being depends on their:
- access to comprehensive, good-quality information about sex and sexuality;
- knowledge about the risks they may face and their vulnerability to adverse consequences of unprotected sexual activity;
- ability to access sexual health care;
- living in an environment that affirms and promotes sexual health.
Sexual health-related issues are wide-ranging and encompass sexual orientation and gender identity, sexual expression, relationships, and pleasure. They also include negative consequences or conditions such as:
- infections with human immunodeficiency virus (H.I.V.), sexually transmitted infections (S.T.I.s), and reproductive tract infections (R.T.I.s) and their adverse outcomes (such as cancer and infertility);
- unintended pregnancy and abortion;
- sexual dysfunction;
- sexual violence; and
- harmful practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM)
I was curious about a few things in my research when I picked this topic. Being a nurse, I understand the obvious repercussions of the negative consequences of poor sexual health in black and brown communities.
My first question was, how can we, as a community, minimize the negative repercussions of poor sexual health?
To know about anything, we must be exposed and educated about it. Usually, more knowledge will produce a paradigm shift that will cause individuals to make better choices. The power of choice is essential in making these decisions.
Planned Parenthood is one place to start. If you have access to a computer, you can head over to their website, plannedparenthood.org, and get tons of information about birth control, cancer, sexual pleasure, sexual dysfunction, and many more topics.
When should we start disseminating information about sexual health? Depending on your culture and religious/spiritual views, that’s a very hot-button topic. Should it be taught at home or school? At what age should you begin talking to your children about sexual health? The answers to these questions are as varied and individual as our population. Removing the stigma around sex and educating yourself, family, and friends could significantly reduce the negative consequences of a lack of sexual health education.
How can we highlight the importance of good sexual health and how it correlates to good physical health?
- Reducing the stigma around sex and that it is only for marriage and procreation.
- Include sexual health practice discussions when discussing overall good health practices.
I hope that in a world where societal norms and sexual practices are evolving, we begin to talk openly about our sexual health practices and preferences. After all, without sex, none of us would exist.
On a personal note, I aim to dispel the myths that break down the goal of a quality, longevity lifestyle. A quality longevity lifestyle is one where we have 360° abundance and growth in our emotional, physical, and sexual health. This also includes our spirituality and finances. This begins and ends with constantly educating ourselves, our families, and our communities. Good health is not for the young; it’s for everybody. Sign up for my newsletters at www.asknursesherrie.org and join my community of W.H.I.Niners, where we utilize tips and hacks about Wellness, Health In Nursing, and Life. I can’t wait to continue the discussion so we can live our best, healthiest lives. Also, follow me on these social media platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, and Youtube at AskNurseSherrie. You can also find me on Twitter at AskSherrieRN.
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