Sexual Health and the Internet
Sexual health is an important part of physical and mental health. It is a key part of our identity as human beings together with the fundamental human rights to privacy, a family life, and living free from discrimination. Essential elements of good sexual health are equitable relationships and sexual fulfilment with access to information and services to avoid the risk of unintended pregnancy, illness or disease.” (Department of Health 2001)
Why sexual health on the Internet?
Sexual health is an important national and international concern (Department of Health 2001 and 2005, BBC1 programme Panorama “Love Hurts” 2005). Sexual health in a broad sense covers a wide field including contraception, sexually transmitted infections (or STIs) and unwanted pregnancies, as well as healthy sexual expression and bonding in couples.
Attitudes and behaviours towards sexuality are key for appropriate boundaries for sexuality or lack of them as shown in cases of the use of child pornography, sexual harassment and other sexual offences.
These are pressing issues in our society today, involving rising costs and overstretched services (BBC1 2005) as well as a rising cost in terms of human distress.
For example, recent figures show that the number of new episodes of STIs diagnosed in England, Wales and Northern Ireland has doubled in the last ten years.
These include increases in gonorrhoea (up by 148%), chlamydia (195% increase) and infectious syphilis (up by 380%) (Department of Health 2004).
The internet offers an easily accessible and anonymous way of offering advice and counselling on psychosexual issues to individuals.
According to the recommendation of the Independent Advisory Group on Sexual Health and HIV prevention and education are key strategies to deal with sexual health issues (Department of Health 2004). However, traditional services such as GUM clinics are already unable to cope with demand and may need an increase in capacity of 30 to 50% (Dr. White, quoted in BBC1 2005) to keep abreast of new infection rates.
New approaches and unconventional services which allow for a quick and anonymous way to access advice and counselling on sexual health may be able to fill the gap in educative and preventative services to some extend.
This project hopes to harness the power of the internet for psychosexual interventions (Cooper et al 2002) as well as the power of action research to critically reflect and improve service provision (Hart and Bond 1995).
BBC1 (2005) “Love Hurts” Programme broadcast on the 16.10.2005 in the Panorama series
Cooper, A., Scherer, C., Marcus, D.I. (2002) Harnessing the Power of the Internet to improve sexual relationships. In Cooper (ed.) Sex and the Internet. A guidebook for clinicians. Brunner Routledge, New York, London
Department of Health (2001) The National Strategy for Sexual Health and HIV
Department of Health (2004) Press release: Independent Advisory Group tells Government to focus on prevention of sexually transmitted infections. Friday 18th June, 9.00hrs
Department of Health (2005) Independent Advisory Group on Sexual Health and HIV. Annual Report 2004/2005
Hart, E., Bond, M. (1995) Action Research for Health and Social Care. A guide to practice. Open University Press, Buckingham, Philadelphia