What is Sexual Health?
Here’s the World Health Organization’s (WHO) definition, “Sexual health is a state of physical, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality. It requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence”.
Sexually Transmitted Disease(s)
Sexually Transmitted Disease(s) which are caused by bacteria, viruses, and other microscopic organisms, are becoming epidemic in frequency. Experts state that about one-half of the U.S. population will experience an STD at some time in their lives. The most common STDs are:
- HIV/AIDS (both also defined in the glossary)
- genital herpes
- genital warts
- syphilis and
STDs are usually transmitted through:
- exchange of body fluids during genital contact
- direct contact with infected surfaces and secretions
- direct contact with an active or infected sore, ulcer or wart
- skin to skin contact with an infected person who appears healthy
- In some cases, through anal and oral sex.
Routine condom use greatly decreases the risk of STDs unless one only has sex with only one person who is uninfected (called monogamous sex). Early diagnosis and treatment of STDs is very important in order to prevent complications. Possible STD complications include:
- mother to child transmission, especially HIV
- pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) with possible sterility
- self-infection of eyes, fingers and other body parts through touching
- congenital defects in newborns, and
- in the case of genital warts, caused by human papilloma virus (HPV), an increased risk of cervical cancer.
Myths and misconceptions about genital HPV are prevalent, and in some cases do considerable harm. Misinformation can cause a person to suffer terrible anxiety unnecessarily, to doubt a partner’s faithfulness, or even to undergo painful and expensive treatment that could have been avoided. Most dangerous of all, misinformation may lead people to neglect a very simple procedure that can save lives.
Most people who are infected with genital HPV never know it because the virus does not call attention to itself. The virus can remain in the body for weeks, years, or even a lifetime, giving no sign of its presence. Also, a genital HPV infection may produce warts, lesions, or cervical abnormalities after a latent period of months or even years. In many cases, a person is diagnosed with HPV only because some troubling symptom drove him or her to a health care professional, or some abnormality was revealed in the course of a routine exam.
Sexuality is a big part of being human. Love, affection and sexual intimacy all play a role in healthy relationships. They also contribute to your sense of well-being. Diseases can affect the ability to have or enjoy sex, so in addition to getting tested regularly, good nutrition, exercise and adequate sleep are all required for sexual health.
Remember the Health Power motto: Knowledge + Action = Power!