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Sexual health

Sexual health

As an RCN member working in sexual health, contraception and HIV, you can access a number of RCN resources available to support you. The RCN's Public Health Forum and the Women’s Health Forum lead the RCN’s work in these areas.

The RCN recognises the value and contribution of sexual health, contraception and HIV services. The roles of nurses, midwives and health practitioners undertake are essential to the delivery of high quality care. 

Alongside providing advice and support to members, the RCN works closely with charities and professional organisations in the specialisms of sexual health, contraception and HIV to ensure that nurses play a key part in the development of services across the UK.

RCN Sexual Health and HIV online learning resources 

The RCN has two online CPD resources for nurses and health care assistants wanting to learn more about sexual health and HIV. Both resources provide information and knowledge for people who do not directly work in sexual health settings. 

Further resources 

National HIV Nurses Association (2016) Advanced Nursing Practice in HIV Care: Guidelines for nurses, doctors, service providers and commissioners. These guidelines are written for everyone involved in delivering and commissioning care for people living with HIV.

National HIV Nurses Association Competencies for specialist nurses working in sexual health

Department Of Health (2013) A Framework for Sexual Health Improvement in England. This replaces the National Strategy for Sexual Health and HIV, the Department's first coordinated strategy published in 2001. 

Waverley Care is Scotland’s leading charity providing care and support to people living with HIV or Hepatitis C. They have developed a range of resources to promote awareness in HIV and reduce the stigma associated with infection and specific links to schools and youth group resources. These are linked to the Scottish Curriculum but the information is transferable to other parts of the UK. They include four, 4 minute films made to highlight the experiences of people living with HIV

Changes to HIV regulations

In April 2014 the law changed so it is now legal for people to buy HIV self-testing kits. These kits are now available to buy and comply with quality and safety regulations. 

The rules that affect healthcare workers changed in April 2014 to make the UK’s HIV policy guidance more up to date, help improve public health and further reduce the stigma and discrimination associated with HIV. The changes mean that doctors, nurses and other skilled healthcare workers with HIV who are undergoing treatment will be able to take part in certain medical procedures from which they were previously banned. 

You can find further information at Public Health England by searching ‘HIV’ and ‘health care workers’. The changes apply in England, Wales and Scotland and are still under consideration in Northern Ireland. 

Contraception and sexual health

The RCN Public Health Forum has developed a strong working relationship with the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH), part of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. We work with FSRH to promote and develop multidisciplinary working in sexual and reproductive health.  The FRSH offer the nurse diploma in reproductive and sexual health care alongside accreditation for long acting reversible contraception. Further information can be found at: 

The Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare has produced a fully-digital UK MEC - the UK Medical Eligibility Criteria for Contraceptive Use. It is the authoritative, ‘go-to’ reference for clinicians providing contraceptives safely to women across the life course. The UK MEC helps clinicians decide what contraceptives they are able to safely recommend based on the medical conditions of patients in their care. This key guidance is informed by robust and up-to-date evidence on when contraceptives can and cannot be safely used. 

The RCN has also produced a position statement which aims to clarify the responsibilities of school nurses when they are providing emergency contraception to students in education settings. It highlights the importance of appropriate training, experience and working together with education providers and looks at the laws around providing emergency contraception to under 16s and the duty of confidentiality. See: The role of school nurses in providing emergency contraception services in educational settings.


Recognition of a person’s holistic needs should be at the heart of all service provision. People who are disabled, either physically or intellectually, have sexual needs and desires like anyone else and can still enjoy sexual expression. Disabled people may need more support in this area and it is discriminatory, thus illegal to deny this support. It is important not to assume, but allow time to listen and ask questions and work towards enabling disabled people to have and enjoy the kind of sexuality they want. Nurses are ideally placed to support the sexual health of disabled people and redress damage caused through negative social attitudes. The Sexual Health and Disability Alliance supports health and social care professionals who pioneer work in this field, and the Family Planning Association train health and social care professionals in sex and disability. 

Professional Associations 

As a nurse, you may find the following organisations useful for news and guidance. These organisations offer support and advice for health care workers and patients on HIV, sexual health, contraception and abortion: 


Faculty of Sexual & Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH)

This Faculty of Sexual & Reproductive Healthcare page lists upcoming conferences. 

SRH Essentials. The FSRH recognises that nurses are the first point of call for many patients with sexual and reproductive health needs. Raising the subject and helping women to become aware of their fertility and the risk of unwanted pregnancies or STIs are important aspects of day-to-day primary care. This one-day course has been designed to support nurses working in primary care or other community settings.

RCN approved Sexual Health Skills Course at Greenwich University

The Sexual Health course has a variety of options for those in practice and those wanting to understand more about the health promotion and policy side. The course is offered online and with taught components. It can be used as a stand-alone module or put towards the 120 credits needed for a 'top-up' BSc (Hons)/Graduate Diploma in Sexual Health, or even towards the MA. For more information see both the undergraduate and post graduate course options available. 

News items

Standards for the management of sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

The RCN has endorsed standards published by the Medical Foundation for sexual health and HIV (MEDFASH), in conjunction with the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH). The standards update the 2010 standards and have been developed to support commissioning and provision of high quality care for STIs across all settings. Although primarily for management of STI the standards complement and can be used to support wider sexual health services.