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Maintaining Good Sexual Health

Health is not just the absence of disease or infirmity; instead it is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being (WHO). In order to reach this state, all aspects of human functioning have to be taken into account, including ones sexuality, or sexual functioning.

Sexuality is a big part of being human. Love, affection and sexual intimacy all play a role in healthy relationships. They also contribute to your sense of well-being. A number of disorders and diseases can affect the ability to have or enjoy sex, including erectile dysfunction, infertility, fear of unplanned pregnancy, sexual transmitted diseases and cancer.

However, a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in sexuality is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. It requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, which creates the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence. For sexual health to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected and fulfilled.

Good nutrition, exercise and adequate sleep are all required for sexual health.

Sexuality is an integral part of human life and an understanding of sexuality is critical to improving sexual health. From infancy, we are conditioned for what our sexual life will be. Genuinely affectionate touch, attachment and bonding, together with good guidance, love and care early in life, prepare children for healthy sexual development and maturation. Such development entails an understanding that men, women and teenagers have different needs in regards to sexual health. Natural sexual curiosity, experimentation and learning before and during adolescence are both normal and healthy. Adolescence is a time for learning to love oneself and others and to be responsible in one's relationship. During this period, young people develop intimate bonds and learn to enjoy the pleasures of sexual activity. They must also learn about the health risks associated with sexual practice and behaviour and the consequences of these risks. This period sets the stage for mature adult sexual relationships.

Adults transfer their knowledge, beliefs and assumptions about sexuality and sexual life to their children and with this, patterns of sexual health or ill-health are established. For older persons, sexual activity can be pleasurable and fulfilling, but with age comes also increased risk of ill-health, and its adverse effects on sexuality.

Sexual health is therefore particularly dependent on a lifestyle that involves certain behaviours which are healthy and which is associated with ones ability to choose.

It is important to an individual's total well-being. It is not restricted to the reproductive years and involves the ability to be able to understand and assess the risk involved in ones sexual behaviour. It requires a supportive, protective environment and includes freedom from sexual abuse and discrimination. Sexual health and well-being are essential if people are to live responsible, safe and satisfying lives, recognizing that people have the option to practice abstinence if they choose to do so.