Sexual health

Sexual health is fundamental to the overall health and well-being of individuals, couples and families.


Sexual health, when viewed affirmatively, requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence.

If you are experiencing sexual violence in your relationship see our domestic abuse page

General guidance to sexual health

The ability of men and women to achieve sexual health and well-being depends on their:

  • access to comprehensive, good-quality information about sex and sexuality;
  • knowledge about the risks they may face and their vulnerability to adverse consequences of unprotected sexual activity;
  • ability to access sexual health care;
  • living in an environment that affirms and promotes sexual health.

Sexual health-related issues are wide-ranging, and encompass sexual orientation and gender identity, sexual expression, relationships, and pleasure. They also include negative consequences or conditions such as:

  • infections with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and reproductive tract infections (RTIs) and their adverse outcomes (such as cancer and infertility);
  • unintended pregnancy and abortion;
  • sexual dysfunction;
  • sexual violence (see our domestic abuse page); and
  • harmful practices (such as female genital mutilation, FGM).

Further links and resources for sexual health issues

Guide to Sexual Health

Sexual Advice Association

An organisation which aims to help improve the sexual health and wellbeing of men and women, and raise awareness of the extent to which sexual problems affect the general population

Pregnancy and Contraception Advice

British Pregnancy Advisory Service (bpas) – provides advice and support about contraception, abortion and sexual health; call the helpline on 03457 30 40 30, open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, or email

Brook – the young people’s sexual health charity for under-25s provides advice, support and information about your nearest sexual health clinic

FPA – provides information about individual methods of contraception, STIs, pregnancy choices, abortion and planning a pregnancy

Sexual Identity and Sexuality

Switchboard: the LGBT+ helpline – provides an information, support and referral service for lesbians, gay men, bisexual and trans (transgender, transsexual, transvestite) people; call the helpline on 0300 330 0630, open 10am to 11pm daily

Yorkshire MESMAC – for gay and bisexual men

LGBT Foundation

Terrence Higgins Trust – provides information, support and advice about HIV and sexual health; call the helpline on 0808 802 1221, open 10am to 8pm Monday to Friday

Sexual Abuse

Sexual Violence

For specialist medical attention and sexual violence support. The following services will also provide treatment or support, and can refer you to another service if you need more specialist help

  • a doctor or practice nurse at your GP surgery
  • a voluntary organisation, such as Women’s Aid, Victim Support, The Survivors Trust or Survivors UK (for male victims of sexual assault)
  • the 24-hour freephone National Domestic Abuse Helpline, run by Refuge, on 0808 2000 247
  • the Rape Crisis national freephone helpline on 0808 802 9999 (12-2.30pm and 7-9.30pm every day of the year)
  • a hospital accident and emergency (A&E) department
  • a genitourinary medicine (GUM) or sexual health clinic
  • a contraceptive clinic
  • a young people’s service
  • NHS 111
  • the police, or dial 101
  • in an emergency, dial 999