THE BUZZ

The Buzz

The Hill: Not the end of the long struggle for women’s sexual health

I could almost hear the massive exhale when the Food and Drug Administration, at long last, approved Addyi, the first-ever treatment option for women struggling with Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD). Wow. Finally, help for women who are distressed by chronically low or nonexistent libido. An estimated 16 million American women are struggling with HSDD, most of us probably know someone in need of treatment. Help for ourselves, our friends, our neighbors.

In our 100-year history, the American Sexual Health Association (ASHA) has promoted the sexual health of individuals, families and communities. We’ve advocated for sound policies. We’ve educated health professionals, policymakers and the general public in an effort to foster a holistic and accurate understanding of sexual health. We’ve educated troops.

As the vice president of health policy at ASHA, I help implement our mission to ensure that all sexual health patients have the freedom to make their own educated and informed decisions about their sexual health.

Up until last month, women and their healthcare providers had no medical treatment option available. Sexual desire is driven by a complicated brew that includes social and relationship factors – and biological factors. Biology is critical. Addyi finally provides a medical option.

This is a historic and tremendous step for women’s sexual health in our society. For too long, the importance of women’s sexuality has been dismissed, ignored or completely undermined. For too long, women have suffered silently. But that’s all starting to change. With its approval of Addyi, the FDA has sent a clear message: women’s sexual health and satisfaction are just as important as men’s.

As one of the founding members of the Even the Score coalition, ASHA does not advocate for any one particular drug. We advocate for safe and effective treatment options. Addyi will not work for every woman. There is no magic pill. But, we trust women and their health care provider to make that decision. And believe me, they will.

Women are healthcare gatekeepers in this country. According to the Department of Labor, women make 80 percent of health care decisions for their families. They pick health plans, providers and make the appointments. We are confident that they can make sound decisions about their own sexual health needs. Let women vote with their libidos.

The road to this treatment option has not been a smooth. But sexual health is a critical part of overall health and wellness. It is a basic human right. And, women’s right to sexual desire and pleasure has been greatly undervalued. The authenticity of the pain of women with HSDD has been dismissed. I’ve people say things like “it’s all in your head,” “eat some chocolate,” or “have you tried getting a new boyfriend?” Remarks like these are offensive and devoid of empathy and science. 

Last week, science won. We’re exhaling, celebrating and thanking the FDA. But we know there is still much work to be done for women’s sexual health. We’re excited to continue working with the FDA to improve the wellbeing of all women in the years to come. #ThankYouFDA!

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