Our Philosophy on Sexual Health
All Toronto Public Health (TPH) employees are expected to follow these guidelines when engaging in work related to sexual health.
- sex positive
- inclusive of all gender identities and sexual orientations
- evidence informed
We support and facilitate:
- community participation and development
- knowledge sharing, research and evaluation
- disclosures of HIV/AIDS
- disclosures of sexual and physical abuse as mandated
- risk and harm reduction
- access and equity
We value the experiences of individuals from diverse communities and backgrounds in the planning and delivery of all our projects and programs. We recognize the historical effects of unjust and excessive power. These experiences affect how we are treated in society and how we treat each other. Respect for all individuals within diverse communities is an essential part of our healthy city and is supported by all staff at TPH.
The mandate of the Sexual Health Program is to prevent unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Sexual health, however, extends far beyond this mandate.
Sexuality is an important part of every human being, which includes how we act, think and feel. Healthy sexuality cannot be separated from basic human rights. This includes a person’s right to freedom from discrimination, harassment, and violence. TPH staff respect these basic human rights and advocate for individuals when these rights are denied.
Our programs aim to promote a satisfying, safe and pleasurable sexual life, while reducing harm, judgement, shame, guilt, coercion, and abuse.
We respond to drug and alcohol misuse in ways that do not demand abstinence. We respond to the needs and priorities of individuals using these substances, their families, and communities.
We respond to sexual activities in ways that minimize risk and change behaviour, while responding to the needs, priorities and choices of individuals and communities with respect and non-judgement.
Community Participation and Development
Also known as “community capacity building”, we work with our community partners to identify and develop sustainable responses to emerging and ongoing sexual health issues.
Education and Counselling
When educating or counselling about sexual health issues, our staff are:
- Bound by TPH policies on confidentiality
- Inclusive, respectful and non-judgmental.TPH staff emphasize the self-worth, self-determination and dignity of all individuals.
- Sex-positive. TPH staff acknowledge that sexual expression and pleasure are important aspects of being human.
- Inclusive and acknowledges all gender identities and sexual orientations TPH staff understand that sexual orientation (who we are attracted to) and gender identity (how we self-identify our gender) is an integral part of every human being, sometimes fluid, sometimes fixed. We include, acknowledge and celebrate all gender identities and sexual orientations in our programs, policies and written materials. TPH is committed to responding to the needs of marginalized identities.
- Advocates. TPH staff acknowledge the strength of individuals, groups, and communities and works with them and/or as their allies to bring their sexual health needs and concerns to all levels of government.
- Pro-choice. TPH staff provide information on all pregnancy options (continuing the pregnancy and choosing to parent, continuing the pregnancy and having an adoption/fostering plan, or having a therapeutic abortion).
Sensitivity towards Disclosure
TPH staff are sensitive to the difficult process of disclosing personal information when counselling clients about:
TPH staff counsel HIV positive clients to disclose their HIV status to sexual partners and to practice risk reduction strategies. We assist with HIV disclosure when it is necessary or appropriate to do so. TPH staff will take measures when necessary to protect the public’s health.
- Sexual/Physical Abuse
TPH staff have a legal obligation to report suspected and disclosed sexual/physical abuse for those under 16 years of age (or under 18 years of age, if in protected custody).
- Sexual Orientation/Gender Identity
TPH staff support the autonomy of individuals in deciding if, when and to whom they wish to disclose.