Why is sex education so important for young disabled people?
Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng answers your sex questions
Q. I am a social worker and many of my clients are young disabled people. What are their sexual health needs?
A. Young people who are said to have a disability could include conditions where there is hearing, sight, and motor function impairment; developmental disorders, mental and emotional health issues that impair learning.
Disability can be defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life-activities. The disabilities encompass those that are congenital and those that may develop as a result of injury or illness.
The biggest obstacle to care and information is the assumed sexual inactivity of people with disabilities and as a result are given little guidance or support around sexuality or sexual health. This is due to pervasive myths and stereotypes that suggest people with disabilities are not sexual.
While parents/guardians are expected to be the primary resource for their children, regardless of disability status, for many young people, this is not always the case. Health-care professionals, social workers, therapists and caregivers are also not well-trained in human rights, sexual rights and sexual health of people with disabilities.
The lack of affirming information around sexuality has negative impacts on quality of life and the increased risk for sexually transmitted infections, unsupportable pregnancy, vulnerability to sexual exploitation or assault, and emotional concerns.
Young disabled people deserve to be treated with respect for varying capacities and support as they explore and develop wider personal and social relationships. People with disabilities require access to contraceptives, annual screenings, condoms, appropriate fertility treatment.
Those giving care and support should use creative ways to make concepts and the content easy to engage with. Regardless of the disability they live with, young people have feelings, sexual desires, intimacy and may seek out relationships that bring them closeness.
• Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng (MBChB), sexual and reproductive health practice, Disa Clinic, safersex.co.za.
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