This entry defines sexuality and identifies dominant explanatory models. In doing so, the entry outlines the central debate regarding the relative contributions of biology and social context. In addition, it highlights current key issues in the field of sexuality: the connection between sexuality and social inequality, the growing emphasis on the promotion of sexual health and well-being rather than just the prevention of sexual risk, the salience of sexuality across the life course, and the debate regarding sexuality education policy. Finally, it identifies parallels between these trends and social work, including the relation of sexuality to social work roles and practice.
Laina Y. Bay-Cheng
Since the start of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) pandemic, numerous biomedical advances have caused the social-work response to shift from management of a crisis to prevention of an incurable, but treatable chronic disease. About 1.3 million people in the United States and more than 33 million people worldwide are estimated to be living with HIV. Rates of incidence in impoverished, marginalized communities are highest, with the rates continuing to increase among young African American gay and bisexual men. Other communities at high risk are people who are incarcerated, engage in sex work or other kinds of exchange sex, and participate in risky injection-drug use. Minority groups are often impacted because of reduced access to quality medical care and HIV testing. Social workers in HIV prevention work are challenged to educate clients and communities on the sexual risk continuum, provide more interventions that are culturally tailored for disadvantaged at-risk groups, and implement evidence-based HIV prevention and testing programs worldwide. The National HIV/AIDS Strategy now provides structure to funding opportunities for HIV prevention programs, and there is disparate access to effective treatments worldwide for those living with HIV.