On World Sexual Health Day, WHO celebrates every person’s right to sexual wellbeing
How does the World Health Organization (WHO) define sexual health – and what do we bring to this annual, global celebration of sexual health, well-being and rights for all?
From the absence of disease to well-being: the continuum of sexual health
Sexual health is relevant throughout a person’s life, through to adolescence and into older age – not only during their reproductive years.
It is determined by the quality and safety of people’s relationships: with oneself and other individuals, with family and friends, and the society in which we live, including the gender norms that shape our experiences. These relationships are themselves dependent on whether everyone’s human rights related to their sexuality are realised and protected.
WHO’s working definition of sexual health emphasises a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, one that cannot be separated from sexual well-being:
“Sexual health is a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being related to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity...
What is WHO doing to promote sexual health and well-being?
Enabling all people to achieve sexual health and well-being requires tailoring normative guidance and national programming to meet their specific needs and lived experience: welcoming and inclusive of people with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions, sexual characteristics, people living with HIV, and with disability...
WHO and HRP activities include:
- education, counselling and care related to sexuality, sexual identity, and sexual relationships
- addressing sexual function and psychosexual counselling
- promoting positive sexual and psychosocial development
- prevention and control of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV
- prevention and management of cervical and other cancers of the reproductive system...
What next for sexual health and well-being?...
Comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) is a curriculum-based process of teaching and learning about the cognitive, emotional, physical and social aspects of sexuality. WHO recently collaborated with partners, including HRP, to develop guidance for out-of-school CSE programmes that are appropriate and safe for different groups of children and young people. This complements the guidance developed by the United Nations on school-based sexuality education. Both these guidance documents reiterated that sexual activity part of normal and healthy living, as is giving and receiving sexual pleasure.
Another recommendation is for policy-makers to integrate brief sexuality-related communication when possible, a clinical tool for behaviour change which takes a holistic and positive understanding of sexual health and sexuality...
Good sexual health is fundamental to the overall health and well-being of individuals, couples and families, and to the social and economic development of communities and countries.
Comment (NPW): As in every area of health, every person, every health worker and every policymaker needs access to reliable, actionable information (including comprehensive sexual health education) to realise sexual health, well-being and rights for all.
Best wishes, Neil