A message from Dr. Kelsey Louie, FNHA Office of the Chief Medical Officer
There are many important topics to discuss when looking at men's health, but the one I want to talk about today is sexual health.
Some may feel shy or embarrassed to talk about it openly, possibly because of widespread colonialist ideas that sex is a taboo subject, but from my experiences in family practice, I can tell you it's a normal part of most people's lives.
Talking about sexual health is important because we need to understand our bodies in order to take good care of them. We need to know when we might need help in the case of a sexual health problem or issue we don't understand.
Sexual health is something that is influenced by many different factors including physical, social, and psychological relationships. Having good sexual health means enjoying a state of well-being that allows you to fully participate in and enjoy sexual activity, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identification.
As an Indigenous man, I encourage other men to set aside any embarrassment or perceived need to be “manly" when discussing this topic.
While I don't have any extra or special training in sexual health, because of my position I have been privileged to hear a lot of personal concerns, and have heard from many community members about their sexual health. I've been pleased to observe that I often sense strength, not hesitancy, in other Indigenous men as they discuss their sexual health concerns. They take full ownership over their health and well-being.
Often these talks lead to more understanding and clarification of their concerns. For example, sometimes we can identify that what they thought was a physical problem might actually stem from mental or emotional health.
While men's sexual health may include physical concerns, such as getting or maintaining an erection, worrisome bumps or lumps, pain or abnormal discharge, the root cause may often be primarily mental or emotional factors, including stress, depression, and relationship tension.
There are some physical reasons that may affect sexual performance, including low testosterone, poor blood flow, previous urological surgeries, and diabetes complications. These can all be reviewed and identified with a health care provider.
In order to optimize health, physicians and other health care providers encourage screening for sexually transmitted infections, something detected through a urine test. A panel of screening may also include HIV, Hepatitis C and early cancer detection. While it isn't just the absence of disease, talking to your provider may help identify other important factors such as depression or a low libido, also known as reduced sexual desire.
If you don't have access to a primary care provider, I would encourage you to consider the First Nations Virtual Doctor of the Day as a safe option to help begin the conversation. I would also encourage honest, open communication with other men, our partners, and health care providers to help reduce the stigma and promote open invitations for men to take greater ownership and responsibility for their health and well-being.
For Men's Health Month 2021, I hope you will join with me to reflect on your own sexual health and wellness.