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Safer Sex and COVID-19

October 7, 2020

All Pennsylvanians should stay home as much as possible and minimize contact with others to reduce the spread of COVID-19. During this extended public health emergency consider utilizing risk reduction strategies to protect your health and the health of your sex partner(s).  Sex, which may include oral, vaginal or anal sex is a normal part of life and should always be with the consent of all parties involved.

Four Strategies to Reduce the Risk of Spreading COVID-19 During Sex

1. Know how COVID-19 spreads:

  • mainly from person-to-person
  • between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet)
  • through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks, which can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs
  • through particles in the saliva, mucus, or breath of people with COVID-19
  • from people who do not have symptoms

2. Consider your level of risk.

  • You are your safest sex partner.
  • Your next safest partner is someone you live with.
    Having close contact, including sex, with someone you live with who has a low risk of having COVID-19 infection helps prevent spreading COVID-19.
  • If you do have sex with others outside of your household:
    • Have as few partners as possible, and pick partners you trust.
    • Talk about COVID-19 risk factors with your partner(s), just as you would discuss safer sex topics including, PrEP, condoms, and dental dams.
    • Ask partners outside your home about COVID-19 status before you meet and engage in sex. Do they have symptoms (Coronavirus Symptoms & Testing), or have they had symptoms in the last 14 days? (Most people with COVID-19 have symptoms, but some people do not.)

Asking about symptoms is not a perfect way to know whether someone has COVID-19.

  • Has your partner(s) been diagnosed with COVID-19 using a nasal swab or saliva test?

Large gatherings are not safe during COVID19, but if you attend a large gathering where you might end up having sex, below are tips to reduce your risk of spreading or getting COVID-19 through sex:

  • Limit the number of partners.
  • Try to identify a consistent sex partner.
  • Wear a face covering, avoid kissing, and do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water often, and especially before and after sex.  If soap and water are not available use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • If you usually meet your sex partners online, consider taking a break from in-person dates. Video dates, sexting, subscription-based fan platforms, or chat rooms may be options for you.

3. Protect yourself and your partners from COVID-19 during sex.

  • Avoid kissing. Kissing can easily pass the virus. 
  • Wear a face covering or mask.
    During COVID-19, wearing a face covering that covers your nose and mouth is a good way to add a layer of protection during sex with those outside your household.

4. Skip sex if you or your partner are not feeling well.

  • If you feel unwell, or even start to feel unwell, avoid kissing, sex or any close contact with others.
  • If you have been exposed or think you may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, avoid close contact with anyone outside your household and follow the Pennsylvania Department of Health's guidance about how to prevent exposing others.

For more information about signs and symptoms of COVID-19, visit Coronavirus Symptoms & Testing.

As a Reminder, Prevent HIV and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

The Pennsylvania Department of Health recommends that individuals who are HIV negative but are at risk for HIV take and consistently use HIV preventative medication known a PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis).  Individuals living with HIV are encouraged to achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load to prevent transmitting HIV to their sex partners. 

To prevent the spread of HIV and other STIs, such a chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis, the Pennsylvania Department of Health recommends the use of condoms and open and honest communication about all recent sexual activity.