Sexual Health

What is Sexual Health?

Sexual health is a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well being in relation to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. Sexual health 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 is Sexuality?

  • Awareness, acceptance of and comfort with one’s own body; physiological and psychological enjoyment of one’s own body and the bodies of others.
  • The ability and need to experience emotional closeness to another human being and have it returned.
  • The use of sexuality to influence, control or manipulate others.
  • A sense of gender identity or expression that is anywhere from male to female or somewhere in between.
  • Attitudes and behaviors related to producing children, care and maintenance of sex and reproductive organs, and health outcomes of sexual behavior.

What needs to change for good sexual and reproductive health?

Working at multiple levels:
Sexual and reproductive health is more than simply what individual people experience. Sexual and reproductive health is shaped by factors at different levels of society, such as laws that affect what we do, social factors such as poverty, community norms, and what services are available to us. In order to improve sexual and reproductive health, we need to consider, and act on, the drivers of sexual and reproductive ill health at these different levels. The different levels can be summarized in this way:

  • individuals, peers, relationships and households
  • community norms, social attitudes, values and beliefs
  • services
  • policies and structures

Based on learning from behavior change and health promotion theory and practice, it is helpful to think about what needs to change at these different levels in order to improve sexual and reproductive health. This helps us to organize our ideas and plans and to increase the effectiveness of our efforts.


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