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Sexual health is a broad medical category that refers to illnesses, disabilities, dysfunctions or states of emotions and relationships that impact the act of sex. Sexual health is generally viewed in a broader context than simply diseases that affect the sexual organs. For example, violent relationships or people who are coerced into having sex also involve issues that are viewed as part of sexual health. Also, a sexual health problem may involve someone who does not have access to adequate care for family planning and pregnancy prevention.

Conditions and Physical Problems Related to Sexual Health

The most obvious problems that are part of sexual health include sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), which affect the sexual organs as well as other organs in the body. These include gonorrhea, chlamydia, hepatitis and HIV/AIDS, among other disease. Reproductive issues such as infertility (male and female), which can prevent a desired pregnancy or create complications during a pregnancy, are also viewed as sexual health issues. Urinary tract infections and some types of cancer have sexual health implications, too.

Sexual Health Problems Beyond Illness

Aside from the diseases and conditions related to sex, a number of other factors in people's lives might negatively affect their sexual health. Some people, for example, may find themselves in a violent or abusive relationship where sex is forced upon them. Others simply do not have adequate access to good medical care to prevent a pregnancy through birth control or to prevent the spread of STDs with condoms. Some pregnant women do not have access to adequate prenatal care, which can prevent unwanted complications for themselves or their babies. Education is another key issue with sexual health, as some do not have the knowledge required to prevent an unwanted pregnancy or STD. These are all issues that sexual health experts and researchers try to resolve.

SOURCES: American Sexual Health Association; U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Planned Parenthood

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