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If I have sex can I catch coronavirus? You might have thought about it but been too embarrassed to ask.
To separate the facts from myths, we’ve put your questions to health experts.
Dr Alex George is an A&E doctor and former Love Island contestant. Alix Fox is a sex journalist, presenter of BBC Radio 1’s Unexpected Fluids show, and co-host of The Modern Mann podcast.
Environment Is it safe to have sex during the coronavirus outbreak?
Dr Alex George: If you’re in a relationship… living with that person, and sharing the same environment, it shouldn’t change your situation. However if one of you is displaying symptoms of coronavirus then you should maintain your social-distancing and isolate, even within your home. In an ideal world everyone would stay two metres apart – even in their own house, but we realise this may not be realistic.
Alix Fox: It’s also really important not to assume that if you are experiencing mild symptoms of coronavirus it will be the same for your partner. So, if you’re showing any symptoms whatsoever do try and stay away from your lover.
Environment What about sex with new people?
Dr Alex: I certainly wouldn’t advise having new sexual partners at the moment, because the risk is you could pass on the virus.
Alix Fox: Don’t forget as well, some people who are carriers of the virus won’t have any symptoms. So even if you feel absolutely fine… you could still pass on the infection to someone and they could pass it on to other people via close contact and kissing.
Environment I kissed someone I recently met, and they’ve gone on to develop symptoms. What should I do?
Dr Alex: If you’ve kissed or been in contact with someone who you think has gone on to develop coronavirus, make sure you self-isolate.
Keep an eye on your symptoms. If you are developing symptoms, then be extra careful. Go online to the nhs.uk website. Only call the 111 service if your symptoms are so bad that you need medical support from us.
Alix Fox: We should be responsible with each other, and for ourselves in our relationships. If you’re somebody who has developed symptoms, and you know that you’ve kissed people recently, you should let them know. And even if you’ve kissed someone and they’ve got symptoms and you haven’t, you should also self-isolate.
Environment I wasn’t using condoms with my partner before coronavirus, should I start now?
Alix Fox: The answer depends on why you weren’t using condoms.
If you weren’t using condoms because you have both been tested for STIs, or you’re in a heterosexual relationship prior to menopause and are using another kind of contraception to prevent an unplanned pregnancy, then that’s fine. But if you weren’t using condoms because you were relying on something like the pull-out method – or you were taking chances with STIs – then it’s even more important that you use condoms now.
Environment Can I get coronavirus by touching someone else’s vagina or penis?
Dr Alex: If you are going to touch each other’s genitals it’s likely that you will potentially be kissing at the same time – and we know the virus is passed through saliva. Essentially, any possibility of transfer of coronavirus – from your mouth to your hands, to genitals, to someone else’s nose or mouth – increases the risk of passing on coronavirus. We want to cut this back to the absolute minimum. So, no contact between a partner that you’re not living with is really important.
Environment How can I maintain a relationship at a time like this? I don’t want to be single now.
Alix Fox: This whole pandemic is prompting a lot of people to rethink what a good sex life is and what constitutes as an enjoyable, pleasurable exchange. I’ve heard of people writing erotic stories to each other, and people who are dating but quarantined in different places taking advantage of the time and the distance. A lot of people have been getting really creative. If you use your imagination a little bit there are lots of ways you can have a sexy time without being face-to-face with somebody.
It’s also important to remember that right now… some people might be discovering that they or their partners have different libidos. You might find yourself in a situation where you were only going on a date once a week, and suddenly you’re living under the same roof. You might find that you want sex when your partner doesn’t, or vice versa. It’s important to communicate this in a respectful, compassionate manner. Living together does not mean that you’re entitled to sex whenever you want. And for anybody who is in a situation where they’re with a partner and they’re not having a good time, because they feel like they’re being forced into sex, there are helplines available for that.
Environment Am I more at risk of catching coronavirus if I have HIV?
Alix Fox: Dr Michael Brady at the Terrence Higgins Trust has provided some really great advice on this. If you are already on regular medication to manage HIV, and you have a good CD4 count (number of white blood cells to fight infection) and an undetectable viral load (the amount of HIV in the blood) then you’re not considered to have a weakened immune system. This means you run no additional risk of contracting coronavirus. So, if you’re HIV positive, continue taking your meds as you would do. Make sure that you follow the same rules as everybody else when it comes to things like isolation.