Introduction The effects of occupation on personal heath have been described, but there is a paucity of literature on how working in sexual health affects an individual’s sexual behaviour.
Methods We gained informed consent from a focus group of 6 female and 2 male sexual health workers in 2010. The focus group was tape recorded, anonymised and transcribed. We used thematic analysis to generate themes.
Results Sexual health workers feel confident in making an assessment of their own sexual behaviour; yet acknowledge that this self-assessment is not consistently reliable. Access to medication (including antibiotics and emergency contraception) leads to an increase in sexual risk taking in this group. Self-medication occurs for unplanned risks rather than pre-planned. There is reluctance on the part of sexual health workers to consult colleagues due to concerns about lack of anonymity, confidentiality and how positive results will be managed. Sexual health workers feel that these behaviours are a barrier to good sexual health. They also feel that both patients and sexual partners expect them to be more sexually experienced; this can lead to discord in personal relationships. Sexual health workers feel that due to the nature of their work, they have a greater and more realistic insight into sexual relationships; in particular monogamy. They also have greater confidence in their ability to discuss sex with their children and families.
Discussion This pilot study suggests that sexual health workers may be at risk of poor sexual health and have specific sexual health needs not currently addressed.