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No doctors for sexual health problems in India

Published by Health World

A recent study done on prevalence of sexual dysfunction amongst women in Ahmedabad found that more than half of the women in the study reported sexual health problems. The study was published in 2017 in the Journal of Mid-Life Health. Another study carried out by AIIMS doctors on adult men in a rural north India setting found 81% of men reporting at least one sexual disorder.

Many other studies, though mostly done on men, indicate a high prevalence of sexual health issues amongst Indians. Yet, sexual medicine is not part of the MBBS curriculum in India. Psychiatrists, gynecologists, urologists and endocrinologists double up as sexologists or sexual health experts who treat these conditions more as outcomes of other existing health issues, such as diabetes, clinical depression etc.

In the absence of any dedicated medical infrastructure for these conditions, patients end up queueing up at clinics of ayurveda and homoeopathy, or go to quacks. “Today, as many as 70% of all sexual dysfunction patients go to quacks who don’t have a medical degree,” says Dr Shyam Mithia, neuropsychiatrist and sexologist in Mumbai.

“The nature of the condition is such that patients are not comfortable asking which doctor to go to. They don’t even talk about it to their GP. But when they see these ads by quacks who promise miracle cures, they fall for them,” says Dr Mithia who says that when he started out about 20% of all his patients were of sexual dysfunction. “Now, up to 50% of all my patients come with these issues,” he adds.

Greater awareness through internet is now pushing more patients to seek medical help. A lot of people use health apps that provide them a private space to discuss their sexual health with doctors.

Doctors say that most patients experience sexual health issues because of lack of sex education. “The rest have medical issues like erectile dysfunction, impotence, premature ejaculation. In women, we see fear of penetration and inability to experience orgasm as main concerns,” Dr Mithia adds.

Very few women seek help. “Husbands usually discourage their wives from discussing their sexual health with doctors,” says Dr. Aruna Kalra, gynaecologist and obstetrics surgeon, C K Birla Hospital, Gurugram. And when they do, they usually discuss it with their gynaecologist. “A lot of them have low libido and some even complain of high libido and the inability of their partner to satisfy them,” says Dr Kalra.

Doctors cite work-related stress that leaves couples with little time to be intimate as the number 1 reason for the spike in cases of sexual dysfunction. “This is especially true for corporate professionals. If earlier they had sex five times a week, now it’s down to once a week or 15 days,” says Dr Mithia.