Sexual Health 101: Understanding the Basics - Famasi Africa
Good communication is essential for healthy sexual relationships. This means you must be able to talk about sex, desires, boundaries, and anything else that may come up
Sexual health is one of those things you don't discuss at dinner. And here's why: it makes you feel vulnerable, uncomfortable, and sometimes embarrassed.
But you need to talk about it to live an authentic life — a life with no worries about unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
However, there are many things to consider regarding your sexual health. And understanding these basics will help you make healthy choices for yourself and for your partner.
Want a healthier, more confident sexual life? Keep reading.
What is sexual health?
According to the World Health Organization, 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.
Sexual health involves having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences that are free of coercion, discrimination, and violence.
It is more than just avoiding STIs and unwanted pregnancies. It's about feeling good mentally and physically about your sexuality, no matter what form it takes.
For sexual health to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights of all persons involved must be respected, protected, and fulfilled.
Why is sexual health important?
Sexual health is important for a number of reasons. It can impact:
- Your relationships
- Your mental and emotional wellbeing
- Your overall physical health
Understanding your sexual health can also help you identify other underlying health issues to avoid unforeseen casualties, like pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
Best sexual health practices
One of the most important things you need to consider when it comes to sexual health is protection. This means using condoms to prevent STIs and pregnancy. Or using other forms of birth control methods to avoid unprepared pregnancies.
Here's why you should consider using contraceptives
Another important aspect of sexual health is consent. Both you and your partner must be willing and enthusiastic about having sex. If one of you is not consenting, then, that isn't sex — it's sexual assault.
Good communication is essential for healthy sexual relationships. This means you must be able to talk about sex, desires, boundaries, and anything else that may come up. It can be difficult to talk about sex, but it gets easier with practice.
Another great sexual health practice is performing abstinence. This means staying away from any sexual act entirely, whether oral, vaginal, or anal sex. It's the best way to prevent pregnancy or any form of sexually transmitted infection as it keeps you from arm’s way.
5 myths and facts you should know about STIs/STDs
How often should you get sexually tested?
If you're sexually active, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends you get tested for HIV at least once a year. However, if you have multiple sex partners or engage in risky sexual behaviors, you're required to get tested more frequently.
Also, if you think you may have been exposed to HIV, it's important you get tested as soon as possible.
However, getting tested for other STDs is also important. The CDC recommends that sexually active people get tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia at least once yearly.
Pregnant women should also get tested for STDs, as some can cause serious health problems for both the mother and child.
Regardless of how often you get tested, it's always important to practice safe sex by using condoms and other barrier methods to reduce your risk of exposure to STDs.
Sexual health tips for different life stages
When it comes to sexual health, there are different things to consider at different stages of your life. Here are a few tips:
- Teens: It's important to learn about consent, communication, and protection. You should also get vaccinated for HPV (human papillomavirus).
- Adults: Adults should get tested regularly for STIs, talk to their partners about STIs, and use condoms or other forms of birth control.
- Older adults: Older adults should continue to practice safe sex by using condoms and getting tested for STIs. They may also want to talk to their doctors about the risks of sexually transmitted infections.
- Pregnancy: If you're pregnant, you should get tested for STIs and talk to your doctor about the best way to protect yourself and your baby.
What other things should you know about your sexual health?
Your sexual health is unique to you, so there's no one-size-fits-all answer here. However, there are some basics you should be aware of:
- Sexual activity can have both physical and emotional risks and benefits. It's important to weigh these carefully before making any decisions.
- You have the right to say no to any sexual activity, even if you've done it before or said yes in the past.
- You have the right to choose when, how often, and with whom you engage in sexual activity.
- Everyone's sex drive is different — there's no "normal" amount of desire.
- Your sexual health can be affected by things like stress, anxiety, depression, medications, and illnesses.
- It's important to communicate openly with your partner(s) about your desires, needs, and boundaries.
- Sexual activity should always be consensual — which means everyone involved should give their enthusiastic consent.
- If you're ever feeling pressured or unsafe in a sexual situation, trust your instincts and get out of there.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How do I know if I have an STI?
A: The best way to find out is to get tested. If you think you might have an STI, it’s important to see a healthcare provider or go to a sexual health clinic as soon as possible. They can test you and let you know what’s going on.
Q: What are some common STIs?
A: There are quite a few STIs out there, but some of the most common include chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV, HPV, and syphilis.
Q: What are the symptoms of an STI?
A: STI symptoms can vary depending on the infection. They can range from no symptoms at all to more severe symptoms like sores, warts, itching, burning during urination, unusual discharge, and pain during sex. If you think you might have an STI, it’s important to get tested as soon as possible, so you can start treatment if necessary.
It's important to be aware of the risks involved with different sexual practices. For instance, anal sex has a higher risk of STI transmission.
There are many resources available to help you learn more about sexual health. Some of which include:
- Sex education: There are lots of great books, websites, and other resources out there that can teach you about sexuality in an age-appropriate way.
- Sexual health clinics: These clinics offer confidential, non-judgmental care and information about sexual health.
Sexual health is more than avoiding diseases and unplanned pregnancies. It has to do with recognizing that sex can be enjoyable, and that it also involves responsibilities: to yourself, to your partner and to your offspring. It involves respecting the sexual rights of others.
You can improve your sexual life with this sexual health package that guarantees your protection against STDs, so you can enjoy sex with no worries.