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Sexual health is more than safe sex

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A person who is psychically fit and emotionally healthy often has a healthier sex life, at least according to doctors at the Bell Flower Clinic and Dedra Coleman, who works with the Special Populations Support Programs at the Indianapolis Urban League.

Coleman says that since sexuality plays a role in a person’s life from a young age, it’s important for people to know what it means to be a sexually healthy adult.

There are some actions people can take to improve their sexual health and performance. One such thing is trying to stay active to remain physically fit. Doctors say that exercise can improve sexual performance even for older adults.

Overall, health experts say that a person who is both physically fit and emotionally healthy is often also sexually healthy. Coleman says mental health plays a huge role in sexual health.

“A lot of times we see someone and are like ‘he’s fine, she’s fine’ and that’s all we care about. Women these days are being more aggressive to get men, but we aren’t being assertive enough to ask our partner to get tested,” Coleman added. “When you think of HIV you think of a gay white male. I was shocked to learn that the highest demographic is in heterosexual African-American females.”

She says the aspects of mental health that play a role in sexual health start at an early age and develop into adulthood. Often, harmful experiences can negatively impact a person’s sexual health later in life.

“The issues that we face as adults start when we are young and stay with us into adulthood. That’s why I try to be holistic about sexual health instead of only focusing on STDs. People deal with a lot, from bullying to domestic and sexual abuse to struggling with your sexual identity,” Coleman said.

Despite the fact that African-Americans represent just 13 percent of the total U.S. population, of the one million people living with HIV in the United States almost half are Black.

Janet Arno, the medical director of the Marion County STD Program and Bell Flower Clinic, says that STDs occur less often in those who use condoms, and that people need to get tested for different STDs separately.

“Individuals are not forthcoming about their infections. Time and time again an individual’s partner says they have an infection only after it has spread,” Arno said.

The most common STDs are syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea and herpes. It is important to remember that it could take 90 days after a person has been infected with an STD before the infection will show up on any test.

Sexual health isn’t just about being STD free. Other problems that may affect someone’s sexuality includes aging. Arno says that learning about sexual health is not limited to teens and young adults.

“Older adults usually don’t think they are at risk, but some people become infected in their 70s and rarely 80s. The use of medications for the treatment of erectile dysfunction, such as Viagra, may also play a role in increasing risks by facilitating intercourse.”

If a person decides to try medication for erectile dysfunction he should first talk to his doctor about his health and about any other medications he is on.

As the Bell Flower Clinic works to keep people physically healthy, Coleman is doing a lot to help teach Indianapolis about the mental aspects of sexual health. She says that the world makes people belittle their own self worth, which causes people to engage in sexually unhealthy activity.

“I know it sounds cheesy, but I think the only way is for us to love. We need to collectively ignite love to leave a mark on people’s hearts on the same level that hate is being sent out into the world. Every time you see a girl in a short skirt standing on a street corner, every time someone gives up and commits suicide, we need to rededicate ourselves to doing better. A mentally and emotionally stable person is sexy.”


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