Protecting yourself and protecting others until long after lockdown is over

The Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) and British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) leading sexual health and HIV groups in Britain, have drawn up advice on having sex during lockdown, to prevent Covid-19 being spread.

Both THT and BASHH say their messages are not only about safer sex and sexual health, but also about protecting your general health and the health of those around you from a virus that can be deadly.

Best advice from both

  • Washing hands and not kissing a partner during sex are not sufficient to prevent the spread of the virus. Even if you don’t kiss your partner, COVID-19 can be transmitted through breathing near each other. As many as one in three people with Covid-19 have no symptoms, but they are still able to pass the virus to others. That calls for caution on everyone’s part.
  • You are your own safest sexual partner. Stay at home, stop close contact with people outside your household and be creative about how you manage your sex life. Masturbation is pleasurable and can relieve stress and anxiety.Masturbation will not spread Covid-19, especially if you wash your hands (and any sex toys) with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after sex.
  • The next safest partner is someone you live with. If you’re living with someone, sharing a bed with them – and if you are both feeling well, you haven’t been exposed to Covid-19 and are not in a high risk group, it doesn’t really matter if you’re having sex. However, if one of you has symptoms, or tests positive for the virus, no sex at all until you are no longer infectious might be best.
  • There’s currently no evidence that Covid-19 can be passed through penile-vaginal intercourse but it is certainly spread through close physical contact, specifically through direct contact with saliva or mucus, and through kissing. It has also been found in the faeces of people who are infected, so do not practise rimming or anal sex.
  • If you usually meet your sex partners online or you are a sex worker, consider taking a break from in-person dates. Video dates, phone sex, sexting or chat rooms may be options for you. Make sure you aren’t pressured into anything that makes you feel uncomfortable –and be aware that images might identify you, and a chat session might be viewed by others or recorded.
  • Reducing body contact and having less sex really will make a big impact on reducing the onward transmission of Covid-19.

Special concerns

  • Access to contraception, abortion and STI services may be reduced, so protect yourself by having a good supply of condoms and/or contraception.
  • Covid-19 has not been found in sperm or vaginal fluid, but other types of coronavirus have been found in different bodily fluids. So take care anyway.
  • Avoid physical group sex (more than one sexual partner at the same time).
  • Condoms and dental dams can reduce contact with sperm, saliva and faeces, especially during oral and anal sex. Dispose of them safely.
  • Before and after sex with your partner, washing is essential. Wash your hands and sex toys with soap and warm water.
  • Do not share sex toys with others.

Both websites also give information on preventing HIV, testing & treatment for STIs, contraception and abortion. They are British-focused but much of the advice is universal.

SOURCES: Dr Michael Brady in:The Independent, by Maya Oppenheim, 28 March 2020 ; Don’t hook-up during the Covid-19 lockdown, Dr Michael Brady.Terrence Higgins Trust, 25 March 2020 ;Sex, Covid-19 and Physical Distancing, Covid-19 Resources, British Association for Sexual Health & HIV;PHOTO: Getty Images in India Today, 19 March 2020