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COVID-19 and sex

COVID-19 is not a sexually transmitted infection, but it can be passed on through close contact when you have sex or are intimate with someone who has COVID-19. 

During COVID-19 lockdowns, people were advised to avoid sex with people they didn’t live with to avoid passing on the virus. You should check COVID-19 restrictions in your country for the latest guidance on this. 

Having sex with a partner you live with is OK, as long as you don’t have COVID-19 symptoms.  

If you or a partner has COVID-19 symptoms, you should keep your distance, and take a COVID-19 test to confirm if you have it. 

Can you get COVID-19 from having sex?

Current evidence shows that COVID-19 is not passed on via the act of sex itself. But, COVID-19 is spread by breathing in droplets from someone with the virus and by kissing. So, it is possible to get COVID-19 because you are in close physical contact with someone when you have sex.

Can you have sex if you have COVID-19?

We are all advised to isolate and not see other people if we have COVID-19. This is to prevent you passing it on. So, it’s best to avoid sex until you have recovered.

How can I lower the risks of COVID-19 when I have sex?

Sex with someone you live with 

If you live with your sexual partner and you both have no COVID-19 symptoms, you can continue having sex.  

If you or your partner test positive or have symptoms of COVID-19, follow the self-isolation guidelines in your country. Don’t have sex during this time and continue to avoid sex or physical intimacy until your symptoms go. 

Sex with someone you don’t live with 

If you are having sex with someone you don’t live with and don’t know if they have COVID-19: 

  • avoid kissing, exchanging saliva or licking around the anus (rimming) 

  • use condoms or dental dams 

  • wash your hands and body with soap and water before and after sex 

  • if you use sex toys, wash them with soap and water and do not share them 

  • consider sexual activities that don’t involve physical contact – like ‘dirty’ talking or masturbating at a distance 

  • explore ways to have sex without meeting up, like phone or webcam sex. If you do this, be aware of what you are sharing and only do what feels right  

  • avoid having sex or being intimate if you or your partner feels unwell 

  • if you are a sex worker, consider sexting or using videos and chat rooms. 

Masturbation has no COVID-19 risk and is one of the best ways to keep enjoying sex if you are worried.  

What if I have a condition that makes me more at risk of COVID-19?

It’s a good idea to be extra careful. You may want to stop in-person sex or only have sex with a partner who lives with you and is also being careful. 

Can I have sex after having the COVID-19 vaccine?

COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. They do not affect your sex life and you do not need to abstain from sex.  

Even if you’ve had the vaccine, it’s important to keep following measures to avoid passing on COVID-19, like handwashing.  

If you do have sex, you’ll need to use a condom to prevent HIV, sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancy. It’s also a good idea to check if there are any COVID-19 restrictions in your area before meeting anyone you don’t live with for sex.  

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Can I still access HIV and other sexual health services during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Some health services may have been disrupted by COVID-19 restrictions, or you may find it takes longer to be seen by a healthcare professional due to a backlog caused by services being suspended for a while.  

Some clinics may still be offering online consultations or referring people elsewhere – it’s a good idea to check with your local clinic to find out what they are offering and if any online services are available. 

Preventing HIV and unwanted pregnancies is still important, even if it is harder to get sexual health services. If there are restrictions on movement, try to get an adequate supply of condoms to see you through until restrictions lift. If you are taking PrEP, ask for at least 30 days’ worth of medication the next time you get a refill. 

If you are using short-acting contraception like the pill, try to get at least a 30-day supply. If you are using a long-acting contraception, such as an IUD or implant, check when you next need to change it so you can plan in advance. And if you can’t get hold of your usual contraception method, it’s a good idea to use condoms until you can.  

Remember, you can still test for HIV by using self-testing kits at home. These may be available from your local clinic/pharmacy, or from a national website, depending on where you live. 

Health services should still be providing abortions (where legal), but there may be some disruption to services. If you need an abortion, contact your local health provider for advice.

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Next: How to protect yourself from HIV

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