New York State Department of Health Recognizes September As Sexual Health Awareness Month

The Department Encourages New Yorkers to Learn More About Sexual Health

State to Hold Fifth Annual PrEP Aware Week on October 23-29 to Promote Sexual Health in NYS

ALBANY, N.Y. (September 29, 2023) – The New York State Department of Health recognizes September as Sexual Health Awareness Month. Sexual health is defined as "the ability to embrace and enjoy our sexuality throughout our lives" and is a state of physical, emotional, mental, and social well-being in relation to sexuality. Sexual health is important for everyone, regardless of gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, or status.

"Everyone has the right to accessible services and information that support sexual health, as it's more than just preventing sexually transmitted infections, it's also so vital to our overall physical and mental health and wellbeing," State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said. "The Department will continue its work to promote positive sexual health and empower New Yorkers to seek sexual health care and education from their providers and discuss sexual health openly with their partners."

The Department's Office of Sexual Health and Epidemiology (OSHE), part of the AIDS Institute, is dedicated to promoting sexual health through innovative public health practice and ethical use of data to support sexual positivity and provide resources that directly and indirectly promote sexual health. In addition to providing oversight of STI Surveillance for New York State (outside of New York City) and working to better understand trends over time related to sexual health and STI transmission patterns, OSHE works to guide sexual health-related policy and programmatic development, sexual health education, STI awareness raising, STI prevention planning and sexual health promotion. This work is done in partnership with Local Health Departments, NYC partners, internal DOH partners, and the CDC.

Unfortunately, not all individuals have equitable access to sexual health. Sexual violence, which is any sexual activity when consent is not obtained or freely given, continues to be faced by too many individuals, and without freedom from coercion, sexual health is unattainable. Sexual violence can happen to anyone, but young people, women, LGBTQ+ individuals, racial or ethnic minorities, and people with disabilities are disproportionately impacted. Some survivors of sexual violence may experience negative impacts on their health. With support and healing, survivors can reclaim their sexual health and live fulfilling lives.

The Department's Sexual Violence Prevention Unit (SVPU) aims to reduce sexual violence by implementing a public health approach. This approach includes:

  • Facilitating partnerships with government, community-based organizations, and community members;
  • Investing funding to enhance sexual violence prevention efforts;
  • Increasing capacity of communities, organizations, and individuals to plan, implement, and evaluate sexual violence prevention and response efforts though education;
  • Improving regulation, policy, procedure, and monitoring for sexual violence response and prevention; and
  • Strengthening data and evaluation.

New York State also has a demonstrated history of supporting and protecting reproductive rights. In July 2022, Governor Kathy Hochul announced the passage of a resolution enshrining equal rights into the New York State Constitution, solidifying the right to abortion access in New York. To reach more New Yorkers in need of services, the Department funds 34 agencies in nearly 160 sites that provide accessible, confidential reproductive health care services to New Yorkers, especially low-income individuals, and those without health insurance. This includes preconception services, contraceptive education, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, routine screenings for breast and cervical cancer, and health education in community settings to promote reproductive health. Individuals often obtain family planning services, even when they do not receive any other health care services.

It's also important to know that having an STI does not prevent someone from being sexually healthy. The Department encourages individuals who are diagnosed with an STI to have open conversations with their partner(s) about their status. Partner Services is a free and confidential program offered by the Department that links individuals diagnosed with STIs or HIV and their partners to testing, treatment, medical care, prevention interventions and other appropriate services.

Building off the Department's ongoing efforts and commitment to Ending the Epidemic through 2024 and beyond, the Department promotes Expedited Partner Treatment (also known as Expanded Partner Therapy or EPT) to help reduce STIs. EPT is the clinical practice of providing individuals with medication or a prescription to deliver to their sexual partner(s) as presumptive treatment for chlamydia, gonorrhea, or trichomoniasis, without completing a clinical assessment of those partners. EPT means every partner is treated. 

The state is also holding its fifth annual PrEP Aware Week on October 23-29, 2023. PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, is medication that a person can take to promote their sexual health and prevent HIV. PrEP Aware Week will feature virtual and in-person events, including feature videos and social media posts developed by PrEP ambassadors from eight different community organizations. Ambassadors are individuals with experience in sexual health who are identified by community-based providers and organizations to help expand education and outreach across New York.

Every day, more people who are diagnosed with HIV are living longer lives. To promote the overall health and well-being of those over the age of 50 with diagnosed HIV, the Department recently announced the launch the People Aging with HIV pilot to meet the unique needs of this population with a goal of reducing health disparities facing New York State's aging HIV/AIDS population.

New Yorkers can consult with their doctor to find a PrEP provider here. PrEP is covered by Medicaid and most health insurance plans without co-pays or cost sharing. Drug manufacturers offer assistance and the Department offers a PrEP Assistance Program (PrEP-AP).

To learn more about PrEP Aware Week, visit

To find an STI provider, please visit the Provider Directory.

To learn more about how Partner Services can assist you in notifying your partners discreetly, privately, and confidentially, please view this video.