COVID-19 is a serious disease. Everyone should take the recommended preventive measures to minimize the risk of exposure and the spread of the virus. We all know this means washing hands frequently with soap and water, avoiding close contact with anyone who has a fever or cough, and staying at home where possible. But what about sex and Covid-19?
With many people under lockdown and being made to stay at home, it’s not surprising that many of us are wondering what the spread of Covid-19 means for our sex lives.
To help, we’ve put together a handy list of FAQs on sexual health and COVID-19 (as the situation currently stands).
Can COVID-19 be sexually transmitted?
At the moment, there is no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 can be found in semen or vaginal fluid. While this means that the virus is unlikely to be sexually transmissible, it does not mean that you are not at risk during sex. Having sex with others, including intimate touching and kissing, puts you at risk of catching or spreading COVID-19.
Remember social distancing helps slow down the spread of the virus and in turn helps healthcare systems cope better.
How can I still have sex but protect myself and others from COVID-19?
The safest way to have sex is to have sex with yourself! Masturbation will not spread COVID-19, especially if you wash your hands or any sex toys before and after with soap and water.
The next safest is sex with someone you live with. However, if you or your partner exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 or generally feel unwell, it’s advised that you avoid any physical contact and self-isolate for 14 days. This means no sex, no intimate touching, and certainly no kissing.
If you usually meet your sex partners online, you could consider not making use of digital platforms. If you do have sex, it is recommended that you wash before and after. COVID-19 can live on surfaces for hours and so it’s very important you wash before you touch your partner – paying extra attention to your hands.
And remember, sex means different things to different people and doesn’t have to involve intercourse or touching. This could be a good opportunity to find new ways of enjoying one another or even yourself!
What about HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs)?
To reduce the risk of a sexually transmitted infection, including HIV, continue to use condoms.
If you are already using pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV, you should ensure you have a supply for ideally 30 days or more.
For people living with HIV, the World Health Organization is recommending multi-month dispensing of three months or more of HIV medicines.
What about contraception?
If you’re not planning a pregnancy and having heterosexual sex – use contraception, including condoms.
If you use short-acting contraceptive methods, such as the oral contraceptive pill, you should ideally have a supply for 30 days or more.
With strained healthcare systems, it might be more difficult to obtain your regular contraception such as an implant or IUD. Where possible, try and make arrangements with your healthcare provider to ensure continuity of your preferred method of contraception.
What if I require an abortion?
Unfortunately, in many countries abortion is not seen as an essential healthcare provision during the COVID-19 pandemic. This leaves hundreds of thousands of women and girls seeking safe abortion care over the next few months in life-threatening situations.
If you cannot currently seek abortion care services from your local healthcare provider, you can seek further advice from Women on Waves and Women Help Women.
People deserve access to safe abortion care at all times but providing timely care is especially important during a crisis. We urge governments around the world to act now by removing all restrictions on telemedicine for medical abortion to ensure those in need have access to safe abortion care wherever they are.
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