c h apter 8
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
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.