To explore discussion of issues related to sexual history and practice with a patient in a sensitive and appropriate manner.


Many people find it difficult to discuss details of intimate relationships, current or past sexual practices, and sexual orientation with someone they don’t know well, even if that person is their doctor. People can be reluctant to talk about instances of behaviour that they may subsequently feel embarrassed or anxious about. They might be unsure of the implications of their behaviour for their physical or emotional health; it could also affect their self-perception – challenging their beliefs about who they are. Discussion of sex is taboo for some people in some contexts, and there is a wide range of attitudes and beliefs on this topic in the general population, for example, about what appropriate sexual behaviour is.

Because of this diversity, doctors should take a non-judgemental stance and assure the patient of confidentiality. Doctors need to be aware of their own attitudes too – they may be similarly embarrassed and reluctant to start a potentially difficult conversation. Doctors must make sure their personal views don’t get in the way of paying full attention to the patient’s message; this will help them respond in the most appropriate way.


Watch the video of a doctor taking a sexual history from a patient, and reflect on how this is accomplished effectively and in a non-judgemental way.


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