His­toric sex­ual medicine par­ley in Colombo

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - NEWS - By Ku­mu­dini Het­tiarachchi

It is a hush- hush, ta­boo topic which Sri Lankans shy away from dis­cussing not just with doc­tors but even within their bed­rooms, though it is vi­tal for the well­be­ing of hu­mans. Just men­tion ‘ sex’ and the em­bar­rass­ment is tan­gi­ble.

This is what a path- break­ing meet­ing of top med­i­cal spe­cial­ists will bring not only to the ta­ble but also to the fore­front next month.

‘New fron­tiers of sex­ual medicine – mind, body and sci­ence’ will be the theme of the three­day 3rd Bi­en­nial Meet­ing of the South Asian So­ci­ety for Sex­ual Medicine ( SASSM) which is sched­uled to be held from Nove m b e r 19-21 at t he Ban­daranaike Memo­rial In­ter­na­tional Con­fer­ence Hall (BMICH) in Colombo.

Ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion “sex­ual health is a state of phys­i­cal, men­tal and so­cial well- be­ing in re­la­tion to sex­u­al­ity. It re­quires a pos­i­tive and re­spect­ful ap­proach to sex­u­al­ity and sex­ual relationships, as well as the pos­si­bil­ity of hav­ing plea­sur­able and safe sex­ual ex­pe­ri­ences, free of co­er­cion, dis­crim­i­na­tion and vi­o­lence”.

Call­ing it a “his­toric event”, Sex­ual Medicine Spe­cial­ist Dr. Las­an­tha Malav­ige who will be in­ducted as the new Pres­i­dent of SASSM, is quick to point out that such a meet­ing has not hap­pened in Sri Lanka and will not be hap- pen­ing for an­other 10 years.

This is a unique op­por­tu­nity for Sri Lankan doc­tors to come to grips with sex­ual medicine, he says, stress­ing that many are the peo­ple who suf­fer in si­lence due to sex­ual health is­sues. “We see only the tip of the ice­berg and sex­ual health is­sues can man­i­fest in dif­fer­ent forms such as sui­cides, gen­der- based vi­o­lence and drug and al­co­hol abuse,” Dr. Malav­ige told a brief­ing on Tues­day at the Sri Lanka Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion ( SLMA) au­di­to­rium.

If th­ese is­sues are looked at closely, it will point in the di­rec­tion of sex­u­al­ity prob­lems which be­come dis­as­trous, for both the in­di­vid­ual and so­ci­ety, if not ad­dressed ad­e­quately. This is why, through SASSM, this Sex­ual Medicine Spe­cial­ist and his team are hop­ing to edu-

Re­it­er­at­ing that sex­ual health is fun­da­men­tal to peo­ple’s health and hap­pi­ness and has a pos­i­tive im­pact on many as­pects of their lives in­clud­ing re­pro­duc­tive health and well­be­ing, Congress Chair Dr. Iyan­thi Abey­wick­rama ex­plained that sex­ual medicine is unique as it per­me­ates through­out var­i­ous med­i­cal spe­cial­ties, such as urol­ogy, gy­nae­col­ogy, pri­mary care, sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted in­fec­tions, en­docrinol­ogy, psy­chol­ogy and more.

cate doc­tors and other per­son­nel of all af­fil­i­ated fields to im­prove their knowl­edge and skills to iden­tify the prob­lems early.

With ex­perts and dis­tin­guished fac­ulty from all over the world in­clud­ing the United States of Amer­ica, the United King­dom, the Nether­lands, Aus­tralia, In­dia, Bangladesh and also Sri Lanka turn­ing the spot­light on the lat­est ad­vances and fu­ture di­rec­tions in sex­ual medicine, SASSM 2017 is tar­get­ing gen­eral prac­ti­tion­ers, psy­chol­o­gists, psy­chi­a­trists, urol­o­gists, gy­nae­col­o­gists, an­drol­o­gists, coun­sel­lors, ed­u­ca­tors, pol­icy-mak­ers, and many oth­ers in­ter­ested in this cru­cial field who can take back this im­por­tant mes­sage, it is learnt.

Rep­re­sent­ing sex­ual medicine doc­tors from one fourth of the world’s pop­u­la­tion, this large gath­er­ing of re­source per­sons has on the cards a sci­en­tific pro­gramme on par with the best sex­ual medicine con­fer­ences, while mak­ing it re­gion­ally rel­e­vant.

The pro­gramme of SASSM, the Sun­day Times un­der­stands, has taken into ac­count the so­cial and cul­tural sen­si­tiv­i­ties which are a vi­tal part of so­ci­ety and will also be very spe­cific to the cul­tures in the re­gion.

A disturbing point brought out by Dr. Malav­ige is that since there is re­luc­tance on the part of doc­tors, may be due to in­ad­e­quate train­ing, to deal with the sex­ual prob­lems of their pa­tients, th­ese pa­tients go to quacks.

Urg­ing big cor­po­rates to think not only of cor­po­rate ‘ so­cial’ re­spon­si­bil­ity but also cor­po­rate ‘ sex­ual’ re­spon­si­bil­ity, Dr. Malav­ige re­quested them to spon­sor through the pay­ment of the reg­is­tra­tion fee, a doc­tor or al­lied health worker to at­tend this all- im­por­tant meet­ing which would ul­ti­mately ben­e­fit the peo­ple.

Re­it­er­at­ing that sex­ual health is fun­da­men­tal to peo­ple’s health and hap­pi­ness and has a pos­i­tive im­pact on many as­pects of their lives in­clud­ing re­pro­duc­tive health and well­be­ing, Congress Chair Dr. Iyan­thi Abey­wick­rama ex­plained that sex­ual medicine is unique as it per­me­ates through­out var­i­ous med­i­cal spe­cial­ties, such as urol­ogy, gy­nae­col­ogy, pri­mary care, sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted in­fec­tions, en­docrinol­ogy, psy­chol­ogy and more.

“This spe­cialty in­volves di­ag­nos­ing, as­sess­ing and treat­ing all as­pects which re­late to sex­u­al­ity. There­fore, we hope that spe­cial­ists in this field, doc­tors from other spe­cial­ties and many more linked to sex­ual medicine and sex­ol­ogy would at­tend,” she said.

The Sci­en­tific Chair of the C o n f e r e n c e, D r. A j i t h Malalasek­era as­sured that SASSM 2017 would ad­dress many “hid­den top­ics” through its ex­cit­ing and com­pre­hen­sive sci­en­tific pro­gramme con­sist­ing of ple­nar­ies, sym­posia, in­struc­tional cour­ses, de­bat e s, ab­stract- driven ses­sions, e- post- ‘ Woman dies af­ter re­ceiv­ing con­tra­cep­tive in­jec­tion at clinic’. Later there was a re­but­tal in small print: ‘She was mur­dered by her boyfriend.’ A Lancet ar­ti­cle on breast cancer and the pill re­leased to the press ahead of pub­li­ca­tion had elicited three dif­fer­ent head­lines from three news­pa­pers: ‘Pill re­duces breast cancer in­ci­dence – pos­si­ble cure’, one news­pa­per had stated; while a sec­ond had said, ‘Pill can cause breast cancer, women be­ware’; and an­other had claimed, ‘Pill no ef­fect on breast cancer’. The me­dia can make or break a per­son and sim­i­larly can make or break a con­fer­ence, said Dr. Se­nanayake, seek­ing sup­port to spread the mes­sage about this cru­cial sex­ual health meet.

SASSM rep­re­sents In­dia, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Iran, Mal­dives, Nepal, Pak­istan, Sri Lanka, Kazhakhis­tan, Kyr­gyz­tan, Ta­jik­istan, Tur­menistan and Uzbek­istan to en­cour­age work on sex­ual medicine and re­pro­duc­tive health.

A re­gional af­fil­i­ate of the In­ter­na­tional So­ci­ety of Sex­ual Medicine (ISSM), SASSM has as its mis­sion the pro­mo­tion and ex­pan­sion of the prac­tice of sex­ual medicine in South Asia. The pre­vi­ous SASSM meet­ings have been held in Bengaluru, In­dia (2013), Dhaka, Bangladesh (2015) and an in­terim congress in Mysore, In­dia (2016).

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