Sexual health – more than sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies

Activa Congress/V. Torres

Policy-makers from across the WHO European Region are meeting in Madrid, Spain on 21–22 October 2010 to agree on a common understanding of sexual health that expands the traditional perception of sexual health, which focuses mostly on sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies.

Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships; it is a state of physical, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality and is directly linked to human rights and the quality of life. The ability of men and women to achieve sexual health and well-being depends on their access to comprehensive information and sexual health care services.

Nevertheless, only a few countries of the European Region (Finland, the Netherlands, Scotland (United Kingdom) and Spain have developed national sexual health policies and strategies. These will be presented and discussed at the meeting as examples of how to approach the development of sexual health policy, and what barriers were encountered and overcome.

The results of situation analyses of the sexual health of adolescents, elderly people, migrants, people living with HIV and people with disabilities will be presented and discussed, and countries and international partners will use the recommendations from the meeting as a checklist of what has been done, and how to go forward.

WHO/Europe has strong partners with whom to further this process – the Ministry of Health and Social Policy of Spain, the Federal Centre for Health Education (BzGA, a WHO collaborating centre in Cologne, Germany), the International Centre for Reproductive Health (ICRH, a WHO collaborating centre in Ghent, Belgium), the European Network of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).