Sexual Health Awareness Month 2022
By: Sadia Arshad MPH, MSN, WHNP-BC
- What do you know about sexual health?
- Did you know that sexual health is a growing area of interest for nurses and other health care professionals?
- Learn all about sexual health for this Sexual Health Awareness Month!
While sexual health and all things related to sex might seem a bit uncomfortable or taboo to discuss, sexual health is a part of someone’s health. According to the World Health Organization, “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.”
What Is Sexual Health?
When people hear the term sexual health, they might think of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or contraception.
While these two things are a part of sexual health, other sexual health concerns include:
- Reproductive tract infections, such as urinary tract infections
- Sexual violence
- Gender-based violence
- Sexual pain
- Erectile dysfunction
- Pregnancy options counseling
- Sexual pleasure and wellness
- Reproductive cancers, such as cervical cancer
- And more
Why Does Sexual Health Matter?
Sexual health can be managed by a team of health care professionals working together to provide the best care possible for the patient. However, patients might not feel comfortable disclosing sexual discomfort, childhood sexual abuse, or similar sexual health topics. Shame, stigma, and fear of judgment are very real concerns for people when talking about anything related to sexual and reproductive health.
We live in a society where sex, especially for women and LGBTQ people, are still heavily stigmatized. Asking a health care professional about sexual health related topics can be very sensitive and embarrassing. When providing care to patients, especially regarding sexual health, a non-judgmental space is essential.
Otherwise, patients could be left not receiving the health they need, which could lead to untested and untreated STIs, unresolved sexual pain concerns, and more.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, rates of STIs have increased, domestic violence rates have also increased, and anti-abortion legislation has emerged. The time for nurses to be aware of their roles in sexual health is now.
What Is the Nursing Role in Sexual Health?
It is important for health care professionals to ask themselves if they are comfortable talking to their patients about sexual health as well.
Even in a health care setting, talking about sex, pregnancy, urinary habits, pain, and more can be challenge. Nurses play a critical role in sexual health concerns since they often provide extensive education to patients.
Ways for nurses to take an active role in sexual health awareness include:
- Providing educational materials
- Addressing any concerns patients have about their reproductive and sexual health concerns
- Offering condoms and dental dams during that visit
- Reviewing patients’ health records
- Discussing with nursing management on any sexual health efforts at the workplace for both patients and staff
How Can I Learn About Sexual Health?
Some evidence-based organizations that can provide you with the latest information and patient education tools on sexual health include:
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Planned Parenthood
- American Sexual Health Association
- National Coalition for Sexual Health
- Reproductive Health Access Project
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
- Nurses for Reproductive and Sexual Health
- U.S. Office on Women’s Health
- National Sexual Violence Resource Center
- Futures Without Violence
The Bottom Line on Sexual Health Awareness Month
September is National Sexual Health Awareness Month. Often, there can be mixed messages people see on social media and from their community members regarding sexual health.
Nurses are the most trusted profession for a reason. Patients often turn to nurses for medical information since there can be so many misconceptions about sexual health, treatment options, and more.
It is also crucial for nurses to recognize that there are several reasons why someone would not want to discuss sexual health concerns. There are people who have had negative experiences with the health care system, people with cultural differences, and people who have religious beliefs who might not feel comfortable discussing their sexual health concerns.
By providing that safer space and having a non-judgmental approach, you can work to establish trust between yourself and the patient and provide as much sexual health screening and information as possible.
Article originally published on Nursing CE Central.