Why’s it so important to be sexually healthy? For starters, it’s a big part of your physical wellbeing, but it’s also integral to your emotional, mental and even your social health. Being sexually healthy helps you to feel confident in loving another person and being loved, and demonstrating that affection in a way that makes you and the other person feel good. Every young person should strive to stay sexually healthy to ensure they enjoy a long, fulfilling love life and a healthy life.
What is sexual health?
According to the World Health Organisation, sexual health is, “A state of physical, emotional, mental and social wellbeing 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. For sexual health to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected and fulfilled.”
How do I know if I’m sexually healthy?
Can you agree with the statements below? If so, you’re considered a sexually healthy individual.
- I am comfortable with my body and my sexuality.
- I can talk effectively with my peers, family, and partners.
- I know my body and how it functions.
- I understand the risks, responsibilities, and consequences of sexual behaviour.
- I am able to recognise risks and ways to reduce them.
- I know how to access and use healthcare services and information.
- I am able to set boundaries when it comes to sex and sexual relationships.
- I act responsibly according to my personal values.
- I am able to form and maintain healthy relationships.
As an adolescent, what can I do to ensure I stay sexually healthy?
1. Go for regular check-ups.
All teenagers – girls and guys – need to have a general health check-up every year. For girls, an annual ‘well woman’ check-up is essential too, and will ensure that your reproductive system is functioning healthily. These visits will teach you the best ways to take care of your body and protect yourself against potential health issues. Regular women’s wellness visits also help your doctor to detect problems early, and to treat them when they’re still easily manageable, rather than leaving them until later when they’re harder to deal with.
2. Know your STI and HIV risk.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are becoming increasingly common among teens, and in fact, teens face a higher risk of contracting certain STIs, making it even more important to protect yourself and get tested regularly. YES, teenagers can get HIV!
3. Use condoms.
If you decide to have sex, use a condom every single time, even if you or your partner is using birth control. Why? Because birth control only protects against unintended pregnancy, and cannot prevent the spread of STIs. ONLY condoms can reduce the risk of contracting HIV or an STI.
4.Don’t be embarrassed to talk about condoms.
It’s much smarter to talk about condom use before having sex, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. It can be an embarrassing topic even if you’re already having sex, but not talking about it may seriously affect your safety. Rather be embarrassed for a minute or two than subject yourself to a lifetime of health issues. Besides, if your partner doesn’t respect your right to protect yourself, you will need to think about whether it’s worth putting yourself at risk to have sex with them.
5.Buy a box of condoms.
We recommend this because it helps to know what a condom looks like, how it works, and what it’s like to handle one. Girls, this goes for you too – plus, if you carry condoms with you, it means your guy can never use the ‘I don’t have any protetion’ excuse when you’re getting down.
6. Plan the chat.
Get comfortable with bringing up the topic of condoms with your partner, and practise opening lines if you need to. If you think your partner will object, work out your reasoning ahead of time and be prepared. Remember: always put your health needs first.
Give yourself the gift of great sexual health this Youth Day
Starting on the path to lifelong sexual health is easy. Marie Stopes centres across SA are able to give you caring, reliable and confidential advice to help you stay healthy and enjoy a fulfilling sex life. We also offer STI screening and management, HIV counselling and testing, pap smears, contraceptive advice and medical male circumcision.