Sex: Lowdown or Lockdown?

South Africa is under lockdown to slow the coronavirus pandemic – and that includes not hooking up for sex. Unfortunately, even after the lockdown ends, we may still need to reduce casual sex and hookups to keep ourselves and others safe from COVID-19. 

While EMH is a sex-positive organisation and we encourage men to enjoy their sex life, we currently recommend abstaining from casual sex to avoid getting and spreading coronavirus. It’s about protecting your general health and that of those around you (including the most vulnerable in our society) from a virus that can be deadly and could devastate our health system and economy.

While sex is an important part of life, right now we have to find other ways to achieve sexual pleasure and satisfaction. It’s time to stay at home, stop close contact with people outside our household and to be creative about how we manage our sex lives.

Here are a few sex-related questions you may have during the time of coronavirus:

  • Can the coronavirus be passed on through sex?

It is important to remember that the virus is definitely spread through saliva and mucus; so kissing is a very high-risk method of transmission. There are also concerns that the virus may be transmitted via faeces so anal play, such as rimming, may be risky. Latest scientific findings have shown that the coronavirus has been found in the semen of some men who got the virus but it’s not yet clear what this means.

  • It is safe to have sex?

Don’t believe that you are safe just because someone looks healthy. Remember that people can be infected with the coronavirus and may not show any symptoms but can still pass it on. Sex with someone with whom you are sharing a home and are self-isolating is one of the safer options; you are already living close to each other.

Do not be tempted to bring any other individuals from outside of your home into your sex life during this crisis. It’s strongly recommended that you don’t hook up with strangers or multiple partners.

  • What other ways can I have sex?

The safest kind of sex you can have – as always – is with yourself – i.e. good old masturbation! Take all the time you need to pleasure yourself to let off your sexual steam. This is where the amazing power of the internet comes into play. You can visit free adult sites to get an eyeful of sexual stimulation. You can also use hook-up apps or sites to chat with other people to get yourselves off, but just not in the same room! If you are using video or sharing pictures to have fun with someone online, take great care that the footage and photos don’t get misused to blackmail or embarrass you. The rule of thumb is to never include your face in any sexually explicit images or video that you appear in.

  • Should I still be taking PrEP?

If you are still hooking up or having casual sex (despite recommendations not to), then continue to use (or get onto) PrEP to avoid HIV infection. However, if you are not having sex and are adhering to lockdown and social distancing rules, then you may choose to stop PrEP for now. It’s safe to stop PrEP as long as you keep taking it for two days after you last had sex. If you are on PrEP for a very specific reason, such as living with an HIV positive sexual partner, you should keep taking PrEP.

Remember that once you’re ready to start using PrEP again, you must take the daily dose for seven consecutive days before it will protect you from HIV (ie. don’t have unprotected sex during those seven days).

  • HIV positive? Don’t stop taking your ARVs 

If you are HIV positive, do keep taking your ARVs (or get onto them if you are not currently on treatment). Being on ARVs will not only keep you healthy and reduce your risk of passing on HIV to others but will also help boost your immune system – very important during the coronavirus pandemic.

  • What if I need to get tested for an STI?

Sexual health services are reducing their face-to-face appointments to reduce the risk of infection. There are limited sexual health services available over this lockdown period, but EMH in Johannesburg and OUT’s TEN81 in Pretoria will both be open for services (details below). If you are in another city or from another province you need to contact your local sexual health clinic for more information.

For more information or to make an appointment, please call:

EMH clinic in Melville, Johannesburg
010 500 0934
www.engagemenshealth.org.za

OUT’s TEN81 clinic in Hatfield, Pretoria
012 430 3272 / 066 190 5812
www.out.org.za

Resources (South Africa):

If you are concerned that you have coronavirus and/or have any symptoms, call the national coronavirus hotline for further advice and support: 0800 029 999.

To stay up to date on coronavirus news, developments and symptoms, save the official coronavirus WhatsApp service number on your phone: 060 012 3456. Send “hi” to the number and follow the prompts. You can also visit the SA government’s coronavirus website here.

Article sources: Terrence Higgins Trust / NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

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