Sexual health is influenced by a great many factors ranging from behaviour, attitudes, and conditioning, to biological and genetic factors. It encompasses the problems of HIV, unintended pregnancy and abortion, infertility and sexual dysfunction. Sexual health can also be influenced by mental health, acute and chronic illnesses, and violence.
It also involves the individual, family, community, health system level legal and regulatory environments where the sexual rights of all people are upheld.
Ideas and norms about sexuality and health come from a variety of sources including social custom, science, medicine, religious belief, and personal experiences. As a result, no one definition of sexual health is likely to adequately represent this diversity, especially when professional opinions on sexuality and sexual health are formed by training and social position which in turn, are often influenced by the individual’s culture, socio-economic status, religion, etc.
Because the words “health” and “healthy” are often linked to the field of medicine, they carry a medical connotation and authority. As a result, the term “sexual health” can be misused to express approval or disapproval of specific behaviours or individuals under what may seem to be “medical truth”. This is the reason why some sex educators and therapists are fearful of promoting a concept of sexual health (directly, by defining it, or indirectly, by developing guidelines) through education.
Also it’s worth keeping in mind that definitions of sexual health can change and should not be taken as rigid rules of conduct.
The World Health Organisation says…
“Sexual health is…the integration of the physical, emotional, intellectual and social aspects of sexual being, in ways that are positively enriching and that enhance personality, communication and love.”
“…a capacity to enjoy and control sexual and reproductive behaviour in accordance with a social and personal ethic.”
“…freedom from fear, shame, guilt, false beliefs and other psychological factors inhibiting sexual response and impairing sexual relationships.”
“…freedom from organic disorders, diseases and deficiencies that interfere with sexual and reproductive function.”
Good sexual health means making sure you have the knowledge, skills and ability to make informed sexual choices and acting responsibly to protect your health and the health of others.