Diseases / Lifestyle / Physical

A matter of life and death

By Jessica Trappe

According to a group of researchers, more than half a million women die as a result of complications related to pregnancy, child birth and the after effects of giving birth. More than 340 million people acquire gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia and other sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s) every year.

These numbers sound scary yet they reflect the reality that so many women face on a daily basis.

Despite most individuals feeling uncomfortable speaking about sexual issues, STD’s remain a prevalent problem in today’s society. Many STD’s are passed on during pregnancy and childbirth. It is estimated that untreated early Syphilis results in a still birth rate of about 25%.

There are a number of cheap and effective ways to prevent unwanted pregnancies, provide safe abortions, help women through childbirth and treat STD’s. However in most places health services are either absent or of poor quality. In other countries health services are simply under used.

Anna Glasier, Metin Gulmezoglu, George Schmid , Claudia Moreno and Paul Van Look point out that sexual and reproductive health has been omitted from the eight Millennium Developmental Goals despite it being of growing concern. They write “unsafe sex is the second most important risk factor leading to disability or death in the poorest communities and the ninth most important in the world”.

Despite the issue of sexual and reproductive health being of such great importance improvements have not been made yet; in Africa there continues to be insufficient contraceptives which leads to a high rate of unwanted pregnancies.

Glasier and others attempt to explain the lack of support when it comes to sexual and reproductive health. They state that the matter has failed to attract donors who would contribute. They go on to say that most organizations simply prefer to push for women’s empowerment and reproductive rights rather than issues linked directly to sexual health.

One of the most important message they put forth is that “sexual and reproductive health is not only about disease, but a collection of related health and human rights issues”.

Know your sexual rights

You have the right to:

  • The highest attainable standard of sexual health, including access to sexual and reproductive health care services.
  • Seek, receive and give information on sexuality
  • Education on sexuality
  • Respect for the integrity of your body
  • Choose your partner
  • Decide whether to have sex or not
  • Consent before having sex
  • Get married only after you agree
  • Decide whether or not to have children

This post is based on a study entitled: Sexual and reproductive health: a matter of life and death

Authors: Anna Glasier, Metin Gulmezoglu, George Schmid , Claudia Moreno and Paul Van Look

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