The Importance of Sexual Health
Sexuality is an integral part of being human. Love, affection and sexual intimacy contribute to healthy relationships and individual well-being. But along with the positive aspects of our human sexuality, there also are illnesses that can affect our sexual health. In addition, irresponsible sexual behaviors can result in undesirable consequences, including unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.
So important is the issue of sexual health that in 2001 the U.S. Surgeon General listed "promoting responsible sexual behavior" as one of the 10 leading health indicators for the nation. The Surgeon General wanted initiate a mature national dialogue on issues of sexuality, sexual health and responsible sexual behavior. He called for the development of strategies that focus on increasing awareness, implementing and strengthening interventions, and expanding research related to sexual health matters.
An open discussion of sexuality issues is important to promoting sexual health and responsibility. More attention has been placed on sexual health since the World Health Organization (WHO) issued the following statement more than 25 years ago. WHO declared: "There exist fundamental rights for the individual, including ... freedom from organic disorders, diseases and deficiencies that interfere with sexual and reproductive function."
However, challenges to achieving this vision remain. In many cases, the underlying causes of sexual disorders continue to be poorly understood, and, often, few treatment options are available. The unwillingness of individuals to discuss their sexual problems may be the greatest barrier to achieving the WHO's vision of sexual health and to accepting the Surgeon Generals' challenge to promote responsible sexual behavior.
What is meant by "sexual health"?
Sexual health refers to the many factors that impact sexual function and reproduction. These include a variety of physical, mental and emotional factors. Disorders that affect any of these factors can impact a person's physical and emotional health, as well as his or her relationships and self-image.
What are the issues that affect sexual health?
Common sexual health disorders include:
- Reproductive system disorders, including cancer
- Infertility problems
- Gynecologic problems, including endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease and premenstrual syndrome
- Urinary system problems, including incontinence and urinary tract infections
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Sexual dysfunction, including erectile dysfunction (ED), painful intercourse and loss of sexual desire.
Other sexual health issues include:
- Concerns regarding "normal" or acceptable sexual behavior and lifestyles
- Birth control
- Teen sex