COVID-19 and sex

If you’re having sex with someone new, talk to them about COVID-19 and manage the risks together.

If you or your partner have any COVID-19 symptoms or have recently tested positive for COVID-19, don’t have sex. Get tested and isolate for 10 days from when symptoms first appear.

If a person has been fully vaccinated, they have a lower chance of getting very ill with COVID-19 or passing it on to other people. You should still take every precaution to prevent getting or passing on COVID-19 and follow local public health guidelines for your are

How can I make sex safer?

If you are going to have sex, you can reduce the harm to yourself and your partners.

Condoms and dental dams can reduce contact with sperm (“cum”), saliva (“spit”) and faeces (“poo”), especially during oral and anal sex.

You can get condoms for free, by ordering online at lgbt.foundation/condomsbypost, or https://thebha.org.uk/condom-request/

 

  • Kissing passes on COVID-19. 
  • Rimming (mouth on anus) is very likely to spread COVID-19 as the virus in faeces can enter your mouth so you should avoid it during this time.
  • Washing before and after sex is essential. Wash your hands and sex toys with soap and warm water. 

 

Starting and Stopping PrEP

PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is an effective HIV prevention medication for those that are HIV negative.

You can start and stop PrEP anytime you like. PrEP is used to prevent you from acquiring HIV when you might be at risk of exposure to HIV. If you are not having sex - you don’t need to take PrEP.  

Some people maybe thinking that as they are not planning to have sex during this time they may stop PrEP. If this is so, we have some information and advice for you on stopping and starting PrEP. 

 

Stopping PrEP

For cis men (people who were assigned male at birth and still identify as a man) and non-binary people assigned male at birth, you should keep taking PrEP (one pill a day) until you have two sex free days. 

For trans women who are not taking gender affirming hormones, you need to keep taking one PrEP pill per day until you have two sex-free days.

For everyone else including cis women (people who were assigned female at birth and still identify as a woman), trans women taking gender affirming hormones, non binary people assigned female at birth and trans men, keep taking one PrEP pill per day until you have seven sex-free days.

 

Re-starting PrEP

Cis men and trans women not taking gender affirming hormones can take a double dose (i.e. two PrEP pills) between two to 24 hours before sex then follow up with one pill daily for as long as needed. For some people this will be a return to daily PrEP dosing, for others it might be 'on-demand' use, so remember to keep taking one PrEP pill until you have two sex-free days (as above).

For everyone else, take one PrEP pill per day for seven days before you have sex. Follow up with one PrEP pill per day for as long as needed and remember – you need to take one PrEP pill per day after the last sex, until you have had seven sex-free days when stopping (as above).

If you think you've been exposed to HIV in a period when you haven't been taking PrEP, we recommend that you contact a sexual health clinic and ask about PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) and that you have an HIV test before restarting PrEP.

 

What if I want to keep taking PrEP?

We totally understand that PrEP offers a lot of people additional benefits beyond the prevention of HIV. We know taking PrEP can help reduce stress and anxiety around sex and in our lives in general. That is particularly pertinent at this current time.

If continuing to take PrEP offers you some comfort and reassurance in this current climate then carry on taking PrEP.  We want people to look after their mental health and wellbeing and much as we want them to take care of their physical and sexual health.

 

Will I still be able to get my PrEP pills?

Clinics are taking a different approach to how they manage things during the COVID-19 outbreak so it's best you contact your local clinic to find out what is happening. Please check their website first and only call or email if you need to.

If you access PrEP via the NHS or a trial you should still be able to get your PrEP pills. Some clinics will be issuing PrEP users with a six-month (six pack) supply so you don't need to come to the clinic as often.

If you self-source PrEP (buy it online) you might experience some delays in delivery. It's always advisable to order a PrEP refill at least four weeks before you are due to run out to ensure you have plenty of medication and allow some time for delays.

 

Will I still be able to get my regular HIV and STI check ups?

There'll be changes to sexual health services and this includes changes to regular monitoring for PrEP users. It's likely that most clinics will move consultations online or by phone. In an effort to reduce unnecessary travel and social contact many sexual health services will move to home testing/home sampling. Check your local clinic's website for information or give them a call.

 

Will PrEP protect me from COVID-19?

There's no evidence that the drugs in PrEP provide any protection against COVID-19.

Currently the best protection remains staying at home, isolating from others and regular hand washing. Please follow government advice and updates.  

 

Access to Sexual Health Services

Sexual health services are still running but they may be operating differently or open during different times. If you need sexual health support or need a sexual health test, you should contact your local service or check their website for opening times. Many sexual health services are offering telephone appointments. They will only see patients in person when this is absolutely necessary, and you should only go to a service if their staff tell you to. 

Services are prioritising urgent cases, such as:

  • If you have had a reactive result on a HIV test
  • If you need PEP because you may have been at risk of HIV
  • If you have been sexually assaulted
  • If you are under 16
  • If you need emergency contraception because you may be at risk of being pregnant.
  • If any of these things apply to you, you can call your local sexual health service for support and they may ask you to come in for an appointment.

 

Can I get my medication?

If you are taking prescribed medications, including HIV antiretroviral medication, then you should be able to pick these up at your pharmacy like you normally do.

If you are shielding and you cannot leave the house you should contact your pharmacy and ask for your medication to be sent to your home.