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Sex and coronavirus (COVID-19)

COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways. It's caused by a virus called coronavirus.

To help stop the spread of coronavirus everyone has been asked to stay local and follow the health advice on hse.ie.

While there is no evidence that coronavirus can be sexually transmitted, it can be passed on through close contact with someone who has the virus.

Reduce the risk of coronavirus during sex

You may not know if someone has coronavirus. Being sexually active with another person involves some risk of getting the virus. You can reduce this risk by following the advice below.

  • Only be sexually active with a partner you live with who does not have the virus or symptoms of the virus.
  • Avoid being sexually active with anyone outside your household.
  • Avoid kissing anyone outside of your household and anyone with symptoms. Kissing can easily pass on coronavirus.
  • Taking a break from physical and face-to face interactions is worth considering, especially if you usually meet your sex partners online or make a living by having sex. Consider using video dates, sexting or chat rooms. Make sure to disinfect keyboards and touch screens that you share with others.
  • Masturbation will not spread coronavirus, especially if you wash your hands (and any sex toys) with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after.
  • While the current advice is not to have sex with or kiss anyone outside of your household, if you do, it is important to limit it to as few partners as possible. Remember close sexual contact with anyone you are not living with can put you and others at risk of coronavirus. Use condoms and dental dams to reduce contact with saliva or faeces, especially during oral or anal sex and avoid rimming (mouth on anus) as it might spread coronavirus.
  • Wash before and after sex. This is more important than ever. Wash hands thoroughly and often with soap and water.

Safer sex practices

Sexual activity can carry the risk of getting an STI and unplanned pregnancy. It is important to take the usual safer sex precautions. Many public STI services are not currently providing services due to coronavirus. Find out more about these restrictions

Remember:

There is no evidence to suggest that people on PrEP or HIV treatment have additional protection against coronavirus.

When to consider avoiding sex

  • Avoid sex and especially kissing if you or your partner has symptoms of coronavirus, for example fever, cough, shortness of breath or loss of sense of smell or taste. If you develop symptoms of coronavirus, you should self-isolate and phone your doctor.
  • Avoid sex if you or your partner has a medical condition that can lead to a serious illness because of coronavirus. Medical conditions include lung disease, heart disease, diabetes, cancer or a weakened immune system (for example, having unsuppressed HIV and a low CD4 count). Find out  more about at-risk groups.

Sexual activity should only ever be between consenting adults who have the legal capacity to make the decision. Read more about consent.

Sexual Health Services during the coronavirus outbreak

Contraception Services

Contraception prescriptions – Pharmacists can continue to provide you with your usual contraception prescription. If your prescription is due for renewal, and you’re not in a position to get a new prescription, your pharmacist may be able to provide you with additional supplies of your contraception, if it is safe and appropriate to do so.

Emergency Contraception – You can get emergency (hormonal) contraception without prescription from your local pharmacy as usual. Pharmacies will continue to stay open during the coronavirus outbreak and emergency contraception consultations with pharmacists will continue. If you need emergency contraception, phone your pharmacist, who may be able to carry out the consultation over the phone, before you go to the pharmacy for the medicine. This will reduce the amount of time you need to spend in the pharmacy. Emergency hormonal contraception can be taken up to 5 days after unprotected sex. The sooner you take it, the more effective it is

Unplanned pregnancy services

My Options provides support and information for those experiencing an unplanned pregnancy. The service continues to operate as normal during this time. Freephone 1800 828 010 or visit myoptions.ie

HSE-funded, face-to-face unplanned pregnancy counselling services have moved their services to phone or remote support. They continue to provide the same level of service. You can find their contact details on myoptions.ie.

Abortion services will continue to be provided. During the current COVID-19 public health emergency, it may not be possible or suitable for you to attend a doctor in person to access abortion services. You can have your pre-abortion consultation by phone or video link with a doctor. Find out more information on myoptions.ie.

STI Services

Currently there are significant restrictions to public STI services because of the coronavirus situation. Find out more about these restrictions

Other important information

For specific information on coronavirus and sex for gay and bisexual men, transmen and other men who have sex with men, please see:

HIV Ireland has specific information for people living with HIV

Information for sex workers is available on Sexual Health Centre Cork's website.

Click here for 'A guide to navigating healthy relationships during the COVID-19 outbreak'.

This information was last updated on 19 June 2020 and is subject to change depending on evolving restrictions and evidence linked to coronavirus.