57 sexual health clinics planned as issues loom large

Tehran, Jan 4, IRNA – Thirteen sexual health clinics out of the 57 planned in the provinces will be launched in February and March.

Consultancy and treatment will be covered by insurance at the clinics where services will be provided to clients by psychiatrists, psychologists, urologists, gynecologists, internists, infectious disease specialists and legal experts, said Mohammad Eslami, head of the Family Health Department at the Ministry of Health.

Medical science universities are responsible to launch the new centers. Currently, 13 universities out of the 57 in Iran have expressed readiness and the clinics are set to be inaugurated within two months in several cities including Tehran, Mashhad, Shiraz, Sari, and Zanjan.

“The 44 remaining clinics are scheduled for the next fiscal year (starting March 20)” Eslami was quoted as saying by IRNA.
Those in need will receive full insurance coverage for all the services and if the visit time lasts more than the average 10 to 20 minutes, which often is the case, insurance companies will pick up the tab for the extra time given by specialists. The Health Ministry has provided the required funding for this purpose.

Legal experts’ services are of course an exception and they will charge clients based on their own tariffs.
There are no reliable statistics on sexual health issues, partly arising from the emotional divorce (the phase in a relationship where, although far from physical separation or may not even be rowing, a couple is emotionally disentangling from each other) and partly from sexual incompatibility.

Researchers have often found that sexual satisfaction is also significantly positively related to relationship satisfaction; when one increases (or decreases), the other tends to follow. Further, sexual dissatisfaction has been mentioned as one of the main reasons for divorce in Iran and a study published in 2014 said nearly 41.4% of divorced women were unhappy with their sex life and 74% of divorced men were sexually dissatisfied. It has been postulated that counseling can help increase marital satisfaction.

Earlier, at the Sixth Congress on Family and Sexual Health, Eslami had pointed to sexual dysfunction as one of the main causes for the rising divorce rate adding that lack of counseling and treatment centers had driven couples to seek help from non-professionals. He had also warned that untreated sexual problems could lead to HIV, drug addiction, divorce and other social malaise.

Pre-Marital Counseling
The government has mandated that couples getting married receive 16 hours of counseling prior to marriage. The classes are held before marriage and the certificate for attending them is one of the legal requirements of marriage. The program was introduced in 1993.

At the counseling sessions, couples participate in genetic, health and marriage counseling and can include face-to-face counseling and watching psycho-educational videos with other couples. But the concept of sexual health counseling in Iran is still in the developing phase.

Despite a comprehensive reproductive health (RH) program the academic curriculum does not offer any lessons on sex education, which many consider a taboo. In its absence, it means that premarital education classes are the only formal opportunity for offering sexual health education.

Health Minister Hassan Qazizadeh Hashemi has singled out the lack of sexual health education as one of the major problems in the country, saying that “we should talk about the issues scrupulously while upholding moral principles.”

Sexual health is one component of reproductive health that has great impact on the health of an individual and society. To date, many Iranian studies have addressed the issue of reproductive and sexual health but no study has per se addressed the definition of sexual health and described its components.

A study conducted by the Tehran University of Medical Sciences aimed to explore the definition of sexual health and provide a description of its components. The qualitative study was conducted from June 2009 to November 2013 in Tehran.
Participants were sexual health experts selected by targeted sampling. Data was collected through semi-structured interviews. All interviews were audio-taped and transcribed verbatim with participants’ permission and then classified by researchers.

Special Definition

Based on the results and according to the study, sexual health has a special definition in each age group along with different requirements. To start a healthy sexual relationship, at first a correct relationship between a couple must shape; a relationship that is based on acceptable norms, convention, customs and social values. When it comes to pious and religious families and societies, religiosity is also a strong factor, in some cases the strongest.

Other studies reveal that the main socio-cultural challenges to sexual health education for adolescents in Iran are affected by misconceptions. The social concern about the negative impacts of sexual education, perceived stigma and embarrassment, reluctance to discuss sexual issues in public, lack of advocacy and legal support, intergenerational gap, and imitating non-Islamic patterns of education, are some of the main challenges, researchers said.

Undoubtedly, the important role of sexual health education in strengthening and developing the family institution can’t be denied. The right kind of programs at the school and university levels can go a long way to help address the looming issue of sexual incompatibility and dysfunction in the country. (Financial Tribune)