Sexual health, sometimes called reproductive health, is the body of knowledge surrounding health issues related to human sexuality. Depending on the source, sexual health sometimes refers specifically to issues involving sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or reproduction. Experts in sexuality, however, maintain that this area of health involves a wider range of knowledge, including mental and emotional health. Some people consider these issues to be improper, controversial, or outright offensive and seek to limit the dissemination of sex health information.
Human sexuality is a highly complex subject. The sexual history and health of any given individual can be as unique as fingerprints. There are some issues, however, that apply to all persons, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or other factors. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), these include a state of well-being with regard to one’s sexuality, whatever it may be. This is separate from the prevention or treatment of sexual diseases, although of course that is a large part of healthy sexuality.
The methods used to prevent the spread of STDs are sometimes the same as those used for birth control and family planning. These topics remain controversial in many areas of the world. Studies have shown that simple education is highly effective in increasing all aspects of sexual health, but even this measure is hotly debated for religious and political reasons. The WHO estimates that 20 percent of world health issues involve sexuality. This includes reproductive issues and STDs as well as sexual violence.
One of the most prevalent sexual health issues involves HIV/AIDS, an incurable and potentially fatal STD. Since its discovery in the 1980s, HIV has become a global pandemic and a severe health crisis, particularly on the African continent. Many other STDs, by contrast, are treatable with modern medical resources. Exceptions include herpes and human papillomavirus (HPV), which are both viral infections. Many people use safe-sex procedures to reduce the chance of catching STDs.
Many sexual health initiatives began in the 20th century. Pioneers such as Alfred Kinsey and Margaret Sanger openly discussed issues of sexuality, reproduction, and birth control, which previously had been considered improper. The social upheavals of the century’s late decades included a global sexual revolution that brought many previously taboo issues into the public consciousness. By the 21st century, information about sexuality and health was widely available. Controversy regarding all aspects of human sexuality continues, however, and seems unlikely to be easily resolved in the near future.