What sexual health is
Sexual health includes:
- respect for the right to healthy relationships, equality and safety
- safety to express individual sexuality, sexual orientation and gender identity
- freedom from coercion, discrimination, violence and stigma
- access to information and health care
- protection from, and treatment of, STI.
STI can be transmitted:
- through skin-to-skin contact
- through oral sex
- through sexual intercourse
- from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding.
Some examples include:
- herpes simplex virus
- hepatitis B virus
- hepatitis C virus
- human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection
- human papilloma virus (HPV)
Why sexual health is important
Good sexual health is fundamental to overall health and wellbeing across every stage of life. It can affect and be affected by other aspects of health, including physical, mental and emotional health.
Untreated STI can cause major health problems, like infertility, ectopic pregnancy, preterm birth, neonatal death, and pelvic inflammatory disease.
Maintaining good sexual health
Maintaining good sexual health is important, and requires:
- access to accurate and comprehensive information
- knowledge about risks and consequences of unprotected sexual activity, such as STI and unwanted pregnancies
- practising safe sex to avoid STI or unwanted pregnancies, including by wearing a condom
- access to inclusive and safe sexual health care.
Sexual health in Australia
- about 16% of Australians have had an STI in their lifetime
- in 2020, more than 29,000 Australians were living with HIV – there was an 18% drop of HIV notifications since 2015
- in 2020, there were about 57,500 new cases of notifiable STI among females and 67,400 among males
- between 2015 and 2019, STI notification rates increased by:
- 17% for chlamydia
- nearly 79% for gonorrhoea
- 95% for infectious syphilis.
Everyone has the right to experience positive and safe relationships with their families, friends and loved ones. Find support through:
- the healthdirect service finder
- a family planning organisation in your state or territory
- 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732), which provides free, confidential telephone and online counselling and information about sexual assault and family and domestic violence.
Read about what we’re doing about sexual health.