Fall 2023 Newsletter

Sexual Health

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What is Sexual Health?

The definition of sexual health currently in most widespread use is that developed by WHO “Sexual health is a state of well-being in relation to sexuality across the life span that involves physical, emotional, mental, social, and spiritual dimensions. Sexual health is an intrinsic element of human health and is based on a positive, equitable, and respectful approach to sexuality, relationships, and reproduction, that is free of coercion, fear, discrimination, stigma, shame, and violence. It includes: the ability to understand the benefits, risks, and responsibilities of sexual behavior; the prevention and care of disease and other adverse outcomes; and the possibility of fulfilling sexual relationships. Sexual health is impacted by socioeconomic and cultural contexts—including policies, practices, and services—that support healthy outcomes for individuals, families, and their communities.”

Read more about the Characteristics of Sexually Healthy Adults

Is a Vaccine a Viable Option to Help Combat Gonorrhea?

Scientists have been working hard to come up with a solution to the ever-increasing fear of antibiotic resistant gonorrhea infection. The way they are trying to combat this fear inducing situation is through a vaccine. For those of you who do not know, gonorrhea is a very common sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the gonorrhea Neisseria bacteria. It can lead to discharge from the genitals and painful urination as well as infections of the rectum, throat and eyes if left untreated.

The treatment for gonorrhea is as simple as taking an antibiotic, however, the emergence of cephalosporin-resistant gonorrhea is complicating the ability of providers to treat gonorrhea successfully since there are few antibiotic options left that have proven to be effective, well-studied and well-tolerated.Trials are underway for a vaccine that would help prevent the infection before it occurs. As with all trials, there have been successes as well as challenges. The vaccine trial that is giving all of us in the STI field great hope is one out of Australia. They have learned that the vaccine that prevents Meningitis B has some of the same strain specific protection and antibodies that occur in gonorrhea strains. This means that they can learn from an already effective and safe vaccine and mold it to their needs. So far, efficacy rates are around 46%, with hopes for even higher rates to come with more time. One problem that has shown up during the 5 years that they have been testing the efficacy of the vaccine, comes from the need to be effective at different sites of infection, like the urethra, cervix, rectum, throat, eyes and the bloodstream. Expecting one type of medicine to help all the different ways the bacteria can infect is challenging. Also, finding an animal model that simulates a human disease is impossible.

Currently, the vaccine is being tested on mice with limitations. There is good news however. This writer recently attended a conference about everything to do with STI’s, and I learned that human trials should start as early as December of 2023 with the hopes of a vaccine to combat gonorrhea on the market in 2- 3 years. Considering 82.4 million new cases of gonorrhea occurred worldwide in 2020, the use of a vaccine could be a game changer in regard to infection rates and the spread of disease. The clock is ticking, and I don’t know about you, but I am excited to see what the future holds since prevention is key in situations like antibiotic resistant diseases.

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