Sex and coronavirus (COVID-19)

Sex and coronavirus (COVID-19)

COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways. It’s caused by a virus called coronavirus.  Covid-19 is highly contagious and as such has had a dramatic effect on our day to day lives.

 

To help stop the spread of coronavirus everyone has been asked to stay local and follow the health advice on hse.ie.

 

While there is no evidence that coronavirus can be sexually transmitted, it can be passed on through close contact with someone who has the virus.

 

Sex is an important part of life. While the recommendation is that we avoid hooking-up for sex, the reality is that some men will continue to do so. To make this as safe as possible here are some guidelines around having sex during the Covid -19 pandemic.

Reducing the risk of coronavirus during sex

You may not know if someone has coronavirus. Being sexually active with another person involves some risk of getting the virus. You can reduce this risk by following the advice below.

 

  • Only be sexually active with a partner you live with and who does not have the virus or symptoms of the virus.
  • Avoid being sexually active with anyone outside your household.
  • Avoid kissing anyone outside of your household and anyone with symptoms. Kissing can easily pass on coronavirus.
  • While the current advice is not to have sex with or kiss anyone outside of your household, if you do, it is important to limit it to as few partners as possible. Remember close sexual contact with anyone you are not living with can put you and others at risk of coronavirus. Use condoms and dental dams to reduce contact with saliva or faeces, especially during oral or anal sex and avoid rimming (mouth on anus) as it might spread coronavirus.
  • Wash before and after sex. This is more important than ever. Wash hands thoroughly and often with soap and water. Or carry hand sanitiser if outdoors.
  • Wear a face covering or mask. Maybe it’s your thing, maybe it’s not, but during COVID-19 wearing a face covering over your nose and mouth is a good way to add a layer of protection during sex. Heavy breathing and panting can spread the virus further, and if you or your sex partner have COVID-19 and don’t know it, a nose and mouth cover can help stop that spread.
  • Taking a break from physical and face-to face interactions is worth considering, especially if you usually meet your sex partners online, by outdoor cruising or if you make a living by having sex. Consider using video dates, sexting or chat rooms. Make sure to disinfect keyboards and touch screens that you share with others.
  • Make it a little kinky. Be creative with sexual positions and physical barriers, like walls, that allow sexual contact while preventing close face to face contact.
  • Consider non face-to-face quickies. The longer (15  minutes) you are in close contact with someone else the more chances of passing or getting Covid-19.
  • Masturbation will not spread coronavirus, especially if you wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser before and after.
  • Likewise if you are fisting or using sex toys, wash your hands and the sex toys with soap and water for 20 seconds before and after. Wear a fisting glove if possible.
  • Alcohol and Drugs impair your judgement. To reduce risk, our advice would be to avoid both if you are having sex. Find out more about alcohol and drugs and safer practices.
Usual Safer sex practices

Sexual activity can carry the risk of getting an STI and HIV. It is important to take the usual safer sex precautions. Many public STI services are not currently providing services due to coronavirus. Find out more about these restrictions.

 

Remember:

 

  • Using condoms correctly and every time you have sex reduces your risk of an STI.
  • Condoms, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and being on effective treatment for HIV and having an undetectable viral load, all help prevent HIV transmission.
  • PEP is still available during these restrictions. If you have had a recent exposure to HIV, it is important to take urgent action. Contact your nearest Hospital Emergency Department where PEP is available or contact your local sexual health clinic. This should be done within 72 hours of sexual contact.

 

There is no evidence to suggest that people on PrEP or HIV treatment have additional protection against Covid-19.

When to consider avoiding sex
  • Avoid sex and especially kissing if you or your partner has symptoms of coronavirus, for example fever, cough, shortness of breath or loss of sense of smell or taste. If you develop symptoms of coronavirus, you should self-isolate and phone your doctor. The Covid-19 test is free of charge.
  • Avoid sex if you or your partner has a medical condition that can lead to a serious illness because of coronavirus. Medical conditions include lung disease, heart disease, diabetes, cancer or a weakened immune system (for example, having unsuppressed HIV and a low CD4 count). Find out  more about at-risk groups.
Sexual Health Services during the Covid-19 Outbreak

STI Services

 

Currently there are significant restrictions to public STI services because of Covid-19. Find out more about these restrictions.

 

Some STI testing clinics, while closed, may provide services in the case of emergencies.  If you have symptoms, don’t ignore them. Contact your nearest clinic and leave a detailed message with your name and contact telephone number so that a staff member can call you back. You can also contact your GP who may provide STI testing services.

PREP and PEP

 

PrEP – current PrEP patients are being contacted and reviewed by telephone with clinic appointments as needed. New PrEP referrals are being accepted and phone clinic appointments are being provided.

 

PEP is still available during these restrictions. If you have had a recent exposure to HIV, it is important to take urgent action. Contact your nearest Hospital Emergency Department where PEP is available or contact your local sexual health clinic.

 

As we wait for restrictions to be lifted find out more about STIsHIVprevention methods and information on testing, click on the menu items at the top of this page.

Other Resources

 

This information was last updated on 21 July 2020 and is subject to change depending on evolving restrictions and evidence linked to coronavirus.

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