Chairperson of the Global Advisory Board for Sexual Health and Wellbeing and
Head of Love Matters India / RNW Media
Sexual health and sexual rights have long been considered key to overall health and wellbeing. However, policy and advocacy in the areas of HIV, AIDS and other STIs have often neglected any consideration of sexual pleasure.
In order to achieve the aim of ending HIV by 2030, a holistic approach that considers sexual health, rights and pleasure simultaneously is paramount.
With this in mind, the Global Advisory Board (GAB) for Sexual Health and Wellbeing, an independent expert group convened by Durex to advocate for a positive and inclusive approach to sexuality, focuses on the ‘triangle’ of sexual health, rights and pleasure.
Vithika Yadav, Chairperson of the GAB, explains: “We realised that, while we had the World Health Organization’s working definition of ‘sexual health’ and ‘sexual rights’, we did not have a definition of ‘sexual pleasure’. We then created the first international working definition of sexual pleasure, linking it with sexual health and sexual rights to complete the missing side of the ‘triangle.’”
For pleasure to be healthy, we need to consider:
self-determination, consent, privacy, safety, confidence and the ability to communicate/negotiate with partner(s).
A three-pronged approach to sexual health and wellbeing
GAB’s ‘triangle approach’ allows organisations involved in the promotion of health and wellbeing to spin the triangle in any direction, choosing any of the three ‘sides’ as a focus or entry point, depending on their priorities, but maintaining a constant connection between the three.
For pleasure to be healthy, we need to consider: self-determination, consent, privacy, safety, confidence and the ability to communicate/negotiate with partner(s). We also need sexual rights to ensure that sexual pleasure is a positive experience for those involved and not obtained by violating the rights of others.
A toolkit to empower healthcare professionals
Consideration of all three sides is vital to ensure anyone who walks into a sexual health clinic is able to access services comfortably, without fear of judgement.
In order to educate sexual health providers and allow them to deliver high-quality services incorporating rights and pleasure for all, GAB created a training toolkit based on the triangle approach, entitled ‘Sexual Pleasure: The Forgotten Link in Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights’.
Training has been conducted India, UK, Lebanon, South Africa, the Netherlands, USA and Russia. The board is also transforming the toolkit into a digital training course to scale up its global implementation.
GAB is encouraging everyone to start incorporating sexual pleasure into the discussion, alongside sexual health and rights.
Only then, they say, can we win the fight against HIV, AIDS and STIs once and for all.