Sex & COVID-19: Get the Facts

We are encouraging everyone to physically distance themselves from others and minimize contact with others outside your home to slow the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). We also recognize the importance of sex for many people and that some may continue to have sex with others outside their household. Here are some ways to stay safer and reduce your risk of contracting and spreading illness during sex.

  1. Know how COVID-19 spreads.
    • You can get COVID-19 from a person who has it.
      • COVID-19 is a virus that can spread when you are within six feet of a person with COVID-19 who coughs or sneezes.
      • It is also spread by direct contact with saliva or mucus.
    • There’s much left to learn about COVID-19 and sex.
      • It has been found in feces of people who have the virus.
    • It has not yet been found in semen or vaginal fluid.
    • We know that other types of viruses do not efficiently transmit through sex.
  2. Have sex with people close to you.
    • You are your safest sex partner. Masturbation will not spread COVID-19, especially if you wash your hands (and any sex toys) with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after sex.
    • The next safest partner is someone you live with. Having close contact, which includes sex, with a small circle of people helps slow the spread COVID-19.
    • You should avoid close contact, including sex, with anyone outside your household. If you do have sex with others outside your household, have as few partners as possible.
    • If you meet your sex partners online or make a living by having sex, consider taking a break from in-person dates. Video dates, sexting, or chat rooms may be safer options for you and your community.
  3. Take additional care during sex.
    • Kissing can easily pass COVID-19. Avoid kissing anyone who is not part of your small circle of close contacts.
    • Avoid rimming (mouth on anus) as this might spread COVID-19. Virus in feces may enter your mouth.
    • Condoms and dental dams can reduce contact with saliva or feces, especially during oral or anal sex, which helps prevent the spread of the virus.
    • Washing up with soap and water before and after sex is more important than ever.
      • Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
      • Wash sex toys with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.
      • Disinfect keyboards and touch screens that you share with others (for video chat, watching pornography, or anything else).
  4. Skip sex if you or your partner are not feeling well.
    • If you or a partner may have COVID-19, avoid sex, especially kissing.
    • If you start to feel unwell, you may be about to develop symptoms of COVID-19, which include fever, cough, sore throat or shortness of breath.
    • If you or your partner has a medical condition that can lead to severe illness from COVID-19, you may also want to consider skipping sex.
      • Medical conditions that can lead to severe complications with COVID-19 include lung disease, heart disease, diabetes, cancer or a weakened immune system.
  5. Don’t forget to take the usual steps to prevent HIV, other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unplanned pregnancy.
    • HIV: Condoms, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), and having an undetectable viral load all help prevent HIV.
    • Other STIs: Condoms can help prevent other STIs.
    • Pregnancy: If you or a partner have the ability to get pregnant, please have an effective form of birth control on hand for the coming weeks.

Howard Brown Health’s walk-in clinics remain open in Uptown and Englewood for your sexual and reproductive health needs. If you are experiencing potential symptoms of an STI, such as discharge, swelling, a sore, a rash, or painful urination, we encourage you to stop by for screening. If you are not experiencing symptoms, please call us at 773.388.1600 for further information.

Information adapted from “Sex and Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)” by the NYC Health Department


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