Sexually Transmitted Infections: Adopting a Sexual Health Framework

Wednesday, March 23, 2021

Eli Coleman, PhDWe applaud the release of a new report issued by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Sexually Transmitted Infections: Adopting a Sexual Health Framework. This report outlines a bold, progressive, national strategy to address the epidemic of STIs by embracing a framework built on promoting sexual health as a means of promoting overall health and wellbeing. While this report focuses on strategies to deal with STIs, its broad approach should address the myriad of sexual health problems faced by our nation; HIV,sexual dysfunctions, sexual violence, and reproductive health issues.  

This report is a culmination of a 20 year effort among public health officials to articulate a national sexual health strategy first outlined by US Surgeon General David Satcher in his Call to Action: Promoting Sexual Health and Responsible Sexual Behavior (2001). This was followed up with efforts by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to use a sexual health framework to address sexual health problems in 2011.  This 2021 report is a definitive, comprehensive, and structural approach which calls upon all sectors of our nation to join in this effort. This is particularly gratifying as PHS faculty have been involved in these efforts over these many years.

The report advocates for a more sex positive approach to sexual health including the importance of pleasure in addressing STIs. It also is clear that we recognize the root causes of health disparities — racism, poverty, homophobia, transphobia, and a lack of access to medical care, education, and transportation. STI programs and services should prioritize the needs of marginalized communities including youth, LGBTQ+ people, Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities, sex workers, incarcerated people, and people living with mental health and substance use disorders. 

Significant work is necessary to eradicate stigma and educate the U.S. population on what it means to be sexually healthy and where and how individuals can access comprehensive sexual health services. A strong recommendation is made for school-based, comprehensive, sexuality education, and efforts to help guide parents in how to talk to their children about sexual health. 

Clinicians also need to be educated on how to address the sexual health issues of their clients and patients. They should receive training on facilitating discussions about sexual health between parents and their children.

The study was conducted by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, which performed an independent, objective analysis, and provides a blueprint for public policy decisions and funding priorities. With this report, we now have a comprehensive strategy to promote sexual health and well-being for everyone, and create a sexually healthier climate in this country.

This report confirms the Program in Human Sexuality mission; to revolutionize the sexual and gender climate, and provide leadership in sexuality research, clinical care, education, and advocacy.

Yours in good health,

Eli Coleman, PhD
Professor and Director
Chair in Sexual Health
Program in Human Sexuality