The Start of a Sexual Health Journey

Thirty-one-year-old Samuela Dolaisau, a former sailor from Fiji, knew next to nothing about sexual health until he was convicted of a crime and forced to serve time in jail. Inmates were educated about sexually transmitted infections (STI) and HIV. That education was life changing for Samuela.

"I have learned a lot on how HIV and STI are spread and the signs and symptoms of an infected person. Secondly, I have also learnt prevention methods such as the correct and consistent use of condoms, that can protect us from these infections," Samuela said.

Every day we hear stories and come across people whose lives have been transformed by getting access to information about sexual health and sexual health services like contraception. It can change the way they behave and the way they think.

What we have seen round the world over the last 60 years is what made us fight so hard to make sure that sexual and reproductive health is at the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

These SDGs are the global targets agreed by world leaders that should help eradicate poverty over the next 15 years.

After many months and years of hard work those targets are set to be signed off later this month at the United Nations General Assembly.

We are delighted that in terms of sexual health we achieved far more than we could have ever hoped for or expected. Targets were included about ending discrimination between men and women, action on violence against women, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM).

There was a target included about sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights and a target to make sure that everyone has access to sexual and reproductive health services.

The moment when the SDGs are adopted is no doubt a key moment, even a turning point.
But when the ceremony and the sign-off are completed, the real work to turn these commitments into reality on the ground in every country around the world will begin.

We need to be clear that each of these targets and goals will mean slightly different things in different countries. Each government will need to make a commitment on the ground and that will need to be pertinent to the needs of their people.

The entire world has agreed that should have access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights but what that means for people in the UK or the States will be very different to what is required for people like Samuela in Fiji.

Governments will need to map out what the gaps are and what they need to do to fill those gaps. They will then need to start developing projects to meet their specific sexual and reproductive health challenges.

The commitments have been made but that is just the start of the story.