The Swedish government launched a sex education website that has gained popularity in the Middle East. Youmo.se provides online resources for sex education support and information. Ranging from topics such as the body, sex and relationships, to sexual health and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), the material is available in several different languages – including Arabic.

Even though the target audience were young people who are seeking asylum or have recently sought asylum in Sweden, the majority of visits to the website have been from the Middle East. The highest number of visits came from Iran, and the most viewed page was the Arabic-language page on the vulva and vagina. Despite the internet providing readily available information on sex, there needs to be a focus on what safe sex is and why it is important.

Countries are increasingly acknowledging the importance of equipping young people with the knowledge and skills to make responsible choices in their lives, particularly in a context where they have greater exposure to sexually explicit material through the internet and other media.

Unesco, United Nations’ Specialised Agency for Education

Religion, paternalism, the obsession with virginity and the ownership of women continue to influence the debate over sex and relationship education around the world. In regions like the Middle East, the topic is not even considered ‘dinner conversation’ unless you are married, and even then, you might experience the flush of shame upon your cheeks from judgemental eyes. Sex education is in everyone’s interest. The knowledge can help lower birth rates, encourages healthy relationships, and can help fight stigma and discrimination.

Avoiding catching an STI is a great way to stay healthy. But to do this you need to understand how STIs are spread, what the risk factors are and what you can do to keep yourself safe. Avoiding the exchange of body fluids, using condoms and limiting the number of sexual partners are all ways to keep yourself safe.

Mike Asher, Co-Founder of Better2Know

Symptoms of an STI

Signs of a sexually transmitted infection may not always be present. However, if STI symptoms are exhibited they can include:

  • Abnormal discharge from vagina or penis
  • Burning sensation when you urinate
  • Genital ulcers, spots, lesions, or blisters
  • Unusual bleeding such as in between periods or after menopause
  • Itching, redness or rashes around vagina or penis.

With some STIs, such as HIV, you may experience flu-like symptoms (fever, sore throat, vomiting) which may lead you to disregard them as a temporary illness or bug.

Just one incident of unprotected sex could result in infection. STIs are extremely common and can be passed on easily. Some infections only require skin-to-skin contact to result in transmission (Herpes, Syphilis and HPV).

Whether you are experiencing symptoms, or are concerned about your sexual health more generally, the best thing to do is to get tested. You will not know for sure if you have an STI without having a test.

The earlier you detect an infection, the earlier you can receive treatment and prevent further damage to your system. Consequences of an untreated STI can include infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease and epididymitis.

Sources

[1] Donor Tracker: Swedish government website on sex education website proves successful in the Middle East

[2] Sputnik: ‘What Is OK Sex?’: Sweden’s Education Site For Migrants Becomes Global Hit

[3] The Guardian: From ‘consent football’ to ‘pin the organ on the body’: sex education around the world

[4] World Health Organization: Sexually Transmitted Infections

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