Advancing the “sexual” in sexual and reproductive health and rights: a global health, gender equality and human rights imperative

Authored by: Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Pascale Allotey, and Manjulaa Narasimhan

Categories: Global Public Health, Human Rights
Sub-Categories: Sexual and Reproductive Health
Region: No Region
Year: 2024
Citation: Ghebreyesus, Tedros Adhanom, Pascale Allotey, and Manjulaa Narasimhan. "Advancing the “sexual” in sexual and reproductive health and rights: a global health, gender equality and human rights imperative." Bulletin of the World Health Organization 102(1):77-78.

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As one aspect of population health, the global interest in women’s health has focused largely on maternal health and has implicitly ignored other aspects of women’s sexual and reproductive health and well-being. Despite this focus, maternal mortality remains unacceptably high,1 reflecting an indictment of our health systems, with insufficient access to services, uneven quality of care and an over-stretched health workforce. However, women’s health extends beyond motherhood, and across their lives the issues stemming from physiological, psychological, or societal factors significantly affect their well-being and quality of life. Often overlooked are sexual health needs of women including menstruation, endometriosis, vulvodynia, dyspareunia and peri- to post-menopause, as conditions that are often normalized to womanhood. Sexual health needs of men are also often overlooked, including infertility, premature ejaculation, impotence, and psychosexual concerns. Furthermore, millions are affected by sexually transmitted infections, including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), reproductive tract infections and cancers of the reproductive system of women (cervical, breast, uterine and ovarian cancers) and men (prostate and testicular cancers). Defining the potential challenges and health risks at every life stage allows for proactive health-care interventions, education and support systems that promote positive sexual health outcomes throughout a person’s life.