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Make a “WISH” for Awareness of Women’s Sexual Health

by Dr. Barb DePree MD

Actually, do more than wish. Be active.

Sign this online WISH petition to add your voice to others advocating for greater attention to women’s sexual health needs. The WISH petition is sponsored by the International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health (ISSWSH), which is a professional organization for those of us who work in the field of women’s sexual health.

The petition supports ISSWSH’s position that “female sexual disorders are valid conditions that warrant assessment, diagnosis and appropriate therapeutic intervention.”

But WISH is more than a petition. It’s an initiative dedicated to bringing “the medical community together with the public to recognize the importance of female sexual health, so that it is no longer considered a ‘lifestyle choice,’” according to MaryAnne McAdams, director of the WISH Initiative. The group even has a Facebook page.

As a professional in the field, I feel strongly about the need for more recognition, more acceptance, more treatment options, more research, and more pharmaceutical options for women who experience sexual dysfunction.

There are many of you. The numbers vary greatly (another area for research, perhaps?), but it is estimated that from 19 to 50 percent of “normal” women experience sexual dysfunction, according to a 2000 article in American Family Physician. Predictably, that number increases when the physician actually asks the patient about her sexual health, which many don’t. (An area for physician education, perhaps?)

As I’ve said before, I’d like companies to develop more pharmaceutical options for women, and I’d like the FDA to consider them seriously and carefully. I know that it’s easier to make a drug to treat erectile dysfunction. I’m well aware that women’s desire/arousal trajectory is complex and multi-dimensional, but the more tools we have in the bag, the more successfully we can treat women with sexual issues.

It’s easier, of course, to fall back on the old “it’s in her head” or “it’s a lifestyle choice” crutch. Thankfully, that attitude is becoming discredited and debunked, but those voices are still around.

“In the last few years, there has been a small, but very loud group who have been given the chance to speak during FDA Advisory Meetings claiming that female sexual dysfunction is a made-up condition and is not ‘real,’” says WISH’s MaryAnne. “The WISH petition may be used as a source of documentation to dispute that erroneous claim.”

As a physician who treats women’s sexual health, I’d like more attention paid to the issue by government agencies, pharmaceutical companies, and my colleagues. I’d like women’s sexual issues to be acknowledged, respected, and treated with intelligence, competence, and sensitivity. And since at some point in your life, you’ll probably experience some lack of libido, difficulty with arousal or achieving orgasm, or some pain during sex, I’m sure this is an important issue to you, too.

If it is, sign the WISH petition. We know size doesn’t always matter, but the number of voices on this topic does count!


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