4 Sexual Health Issues That Need Our Attention Right Now
Dek: With the increasing noise around sexual health, what are the areas that need our attention the most?
Meta Description: Sexual health and discussions surrounding it are becoming more and more commonplace. Read this article to know about four important sexual health concerns.
As medicine advances, so does the need to understand our health a little more than we used to. Parts of our body that were once not openly talked about are now starting to be explored more publicly. Sexual health has taken a seat of importance as we try to understand ourselves as sexual beings. As conversations around the freedom to be sexual and accept yourself take the spotlight, so do those about the responsibility to care for your sexual health.
What is sexual health?
The WHO (World Health Organisation) defines sexual health as something that “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.”
What can help us achieve good sexual health?
Access to correct, comprehensive information about sex and sexuality
Knowledge about the risk and consequences of unprotected sex.
Access to sexual healthcare
An environment that encourages sexual health and curiosity around it
There is a range of sexual health issues that we need to be cognizant of. They may be related to sexual dysfunction, sexual violence, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), or even pregnancy and abortion and related harmful practices.
Below we will discuss some of the most pressing sexual health issues that need more understanding and awareness in our society.
1. Sexual dysfunction
Sexual dysfunction is an issue that interrupts pleasure during sexual intercourse. There are four types of sexual dysfunction:
a. Desire disorders: Lack of interest or desire to have sex
b. Arousal disorders: The inability to be aroused during sex
c. Orgasm disorders: Lack of control over the orgasm or delayed orgasms
d. Pain disorders: Facing pain during intercourse
While dysfunction is largely seen as an issue only men deal with, people of other sexes and genders also face it on a regular basis. However, it is most commonly noticed in people over the age of 40.
It can either be caused by physical issues (such as diabetes, neurological disorders, hormonal imbalances, substance abuse, and certain medication, or even by psychological issues caused by past trauma or general stress and anxiety.
Often there is a nagging feeling that you or your partner are not enjoying sex the way you normally should. Pleasure is key during intercourse, regardless of orgasm. But when there is an absence of it due to whatever reason, it becomes something to be concerned about.
Often, the best way to address it is to speak to sex therapists to understand what the underlying issue might be and consider seeking help for the same from them. Often the issue may be something that requires communication or certain tools in therapy to be able to address the issue upfront.
2. Birth Control
One of the biggest sexual health issues is unwanted pregnancy and the lack of access to safe abortions. Even in the 21st century, there are societies that have actively tried to block access to birth control or even information about it. There are many different methods of birth control, but they can be categorised into the following:
a. Barrier methods (condoms, sponges, spermicide, diaphragms, etc.)
b. Hormonal methods (oral contraceptives, injections, etc.)
c. Long-term contraception (IUDs)
d. Sterilisation (vasectomy, tubal litigation)
e. Emergency contraception (pills, copper T)
Birth control is important not just so that people can avoid unwanted pregnancies, but also helps in controlling child and mother mortality rates, along with having better agency over your lives. In case of complications caused by pregnancy too, using birth control can be a matter of life or death for some folks. While there is no “right” reason to need contraception, its importance and access to it is a key component to good sexual health.
Chlamydia is a commonly spread infection that is transmitted sexually. It is caused by a bacteria called Chlamydia trachomatis. Often the disease affects the patient’s rectum and throat. For women, it can affect the cervix, and for men, the urethra.
Symptoms include pain during intercourse, a burning sensation when urinating, abnormal discharge from the penis or vagina, and rectal pain or bleeding as well. These symptoms may help a diagnosis, but usually, a lab test can confirm the same.
Often people around the age of 25 or those with multiple sexual partners should get regularly checked for chlamydia. When left untreated, it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) in women. It can even cause pneumonia or eye infections in babies from the mother having chlamydia. It can also increase the chances of contracting HIV/AIDS when left unchecked.
The best way to prevent chlamydia is to use protection while having vaginal, oral, or anal sex. While condoms may not entirely prevent the disease from spreading, it definitely reduces the chances of contracting it.
It can be treated with a course of antibiotics over 7-10 days. While it may not repair the permanent damage that the disease causes, it is a good way to cure the disease. The best way to prevent it from spreading disease to your partner(s) is to refrain from having sex until you’re done with your course of medication.
Herpes is a common infection that stays in your body for life. It can cause sores to pop up around your mouth, genitals, scrotum, rectum, inner thighs, lips, throat, and even possibly, your eyes.
Caused by a virus, herpes is not restricted to being transmitted sexually alone. It can be spread by skin-to-skin contact with an infected area as well. But largely, it is still spread by vaginal, oral, or anal sex, and kissing.
There are two types of herpes viruses: HSV-1 and HSV-2. HSV stands for Herpes Simplex Viruses. While HSV-1 can cause oral herpes and HSV-2 largely rests in the genitals, there is a chance that one type of virus may affect the other as well. If someone with cold sores on their lips has oral sex with you, it can lead to genital herpes.
While the onset of herpes may feel like itching, burning, or tingling in the area, it eventually gets worse, causing painful blisters or a cluster of them in the infected area. Left unchecked, it can also aggravate and cause fever, chills, body aches, and swollen glands.
If you have frequent outbreaks, it may be suggested to stay on medication long-term to prevent further issues. Taking care of yourself through diet, exercise, and staying stress-free will prevent future outbreaks as well.
Abstain from having sex, even with a condom, during outbreaks since there may be sores on parts of your body that you may not have observed. People who have herpes are more likely to catch HIV/AIDS at a later stage. Continue to use protection even when you are free of outbreaks, and avoid touching your sores when you do have them.
While there are many more issues of concern when it comes to sexual health, these are a good place to start. Aim for better sexual health by having healthy conversations around sex, your body, and sexuality.