CPD Articles

Enhancing sexual health in primary care: Guidance for practitioners

Padaruth Ramlachan, Keshena Naidoo
South African Family Practice | Vol 66, No 1 : Part 1| a5822 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/safp.v66i1.5822 | © 2024 Padaruth Ramlachan, Keshena Naidoo | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 24 August 2023 | Published: 19 January 2024

About the author(s)

Padaruth Ramlachan, International Society for Sexual Medicine (ISSM), Durban; and, African Society for Sexual Medicine (ASSM), Durban, South Africa
Keshena Naidoo, Department of Family Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa


Sexual health is an integral aspect of overall health and well-being and is fundamental to the sustainable development of societies worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines sexual health as ‘a state of physical, emotional, mental, and social well-being in relation to sexuality’. However, addressing sexual health has been afforded low priority in primary healthcare systems. Primary care practitioners (PCPs), who play a crucial role in providing comprehensive care to communities, receive little training on screening and managing individuals with sexual health problems. The scope of services ranges from education, prevention and screening, to management of sexual health matters. Patients with noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), such as stroke, cancer, heart disease and diabetes, are at increased risk for sexual dysfunction, possibly because of common pathogenetic mechanisms, such as inflammation. This is of considerable importance in the sub-Saharan African context where there is a rapidly increasing prevalence of NCDs, as well as a high burden of HIV. Strategies to improve the quality of sexual health services in primary care include creating a safe and non-judgemental practice environment for history-taking among gender-diverse populations, utilising effective screening tools aligned with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) criteria for sexual dysfunctions. In particular, the International Consultation on Sexual Medicine (ICSM -5) diagnostic and treatment algorithm can empower primary care providers to effectively address sexual dysfunctions among patients and improve the quality of care provided to communities regarding sexual and reproductive health.


sexual health; primary healthcare; sexual dysfunctions; gender-diverse; screening


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