LGBTI equality and human rights in Europe and Central Asia


sexual health

Katrin Hugendubel, Advocacy Director, ILGA-Europe

Today on St Valentine’s Day we want to talk about love - and we want to talk about healthy and happy sex lives. Today, we are launching the “We Love Sexual Health” campaign., running until Sunday.

Sexual health is a vital part of a good life; and it is also therefore an important part of our work. The LGBTI movement is sometimes challenged for shying away from talking about and working on sexual health. The stigma that has come with the topic for our community silences conversations in the community and can deter LGBTI organisations from being vocal about the important work they do in supporting people in ensuring their own sexual health. But this silence is not only unnecessary and further enhancing the idea that sexual health is something that should not be talked about.  In the light of the sexual health problems the community still faces, this silence is dangerous.

Unfortunately, many sexually transmittable infections are still or are again on the rise: hepatitis, syphilis, gonorrhea, to name just three. The cases of new HIV infections amongst men who have sex with men are continuing to increase in most countries across Europe. Even countries that were, in the past, considered to be ‘low prevalence’ (in particular in the Western Balkans) are now becoming high prevalence countries. Worldwide, the HIV prevalence is estimated to be at 19% among trans women, and trans women are 49 times more likely to be living with HIV than the general population.

This picture might sound worrying – but the good news is that we all can take a first step in tackling the problem.  We can start shattering the taboo, we can start talking about sexual health, about self-determination, about saying no if we don’t want to, about taking care of each other and our sexual partners. We can start talking about testing and prevention, about safe sex, about consulting health practitioners when we feel we need to, and even when we don’t.

And once we have made the first step and have open and honest conversations about what sexual health means and how we can live safe happy sex lives, we will also start to tackle the broader questions, we will start a constructive conversation about how to decrease risks in the community and ensure non-discrimination.

And this is why we launch this campaign as a series of blogs in which different people with different perspectives of the community will give us their take on sexual health, from access to information, sexual pleasure, and outreach to under-represented groups, HIV stigma and STI prevention. We want to encourage all of us to be open and break the silence.

The diversity of the blogs you will read is an important feature. Not everything you read will reflect ILGA-Europe policy, or the views of our staff or board members. But these voices are important in understanding the richness of the experiences and views within our community, and we want them to provoke consideration, debate, discussion and understanding.

We hope you will enjoy reading the blogs and maybe today you also will start talking to your partner,  a friend, someone from your family, your colleague, your neighbor, your doctor, anyone who comes to your mind when you think of sexual health.  Let say #WeLoveSexualHealth and ensure the taboos start to fade away.

Katrin Hugendubel is Advocacy Director at ILGA-Europe. Follow her on Twitter @khugendubel.