Hesperian Health Guides

Chapter 8: Sexual health: Preventing sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS

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HealthWiki > A Health Handbook for Women with Disabilities > Chapter 8: Sexual health: Preventing sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS

a woman showing a condom to a man.

Sexual health is a physical and emotional state of well-being that allows us to enjoy and act on our sexual feelings. We can keep ourselves sexually healthy by learning about our bodies and what gives us pleasure, and by reducing the risk of unwanted pregnancy and infections passed through sex.

In many communities, harmful beliefs about what it means to be a woman can make it hard for women to have healthy sex. Because women often have little control over decisions about sex, and often cannot refuse sex, millions of women around the world become infected every year with HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

People sometimes think a woman who has a disability cannot get an infection. This is not true. Women with disabilities can get the same infections non-disabled women get.

In fact girls and women with disabilities are more at risk for getting STIs than women who are not disabled. Not only do they find it difficult to get information about sexual health, they may have less control over how and who they have sex with. This makes them more vulnerable to being taken advantage of sexually, and more likely to get a sexually transmitted infection, including HIV. For more information about sexual abuse of women with disabilities, see Chapter 14.

This chapter has information about HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections, and how to prevent them. With good information, women can take steps to protect themselves and enjoy healthy sex.