The following is a joint-statement from ACON, The Kirby Institute and ASHM.
- The best way to prevent COVID-19 transmission is to avoid casual sex with people you are not living with or who are not your regular sexual partner.
- If you do decide to continue to have casual sex, take precautions to stay as safe as possible by reducing the number of people you have sex and assist with contract tracing by ensuring you have the contact information of your partners.
- Remember to access regular sexual health testing and always practice safe sex by always using condoms, PrEP, UVL (undetectable viral load), PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) or a combination.
As health organisations, ACON, The Kirby Institute and the Australian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM) continue to monitor developments regarding COVID-19 very closely. We take guidance from state and federal health agencies, and encourage our communities to stay informed and follow official instructions.
With the gradual easing of COVID-19 restrictions in NSW, we are urging people in our communities to remain vigilant and continue to maintain physical distancing, including in relation to casual sex. The best way to prevent COVID-19 transmission is to avoid casual sex with people you are not living with or who are not your regular sexual partner; this advice has not changed.
Physical distancing guidelines to stay 1.5m away from other people is still in place. It’s important we continue to adhere to all public health measures.
We recognise that for some people in our communities, long periods of physical distancing can be challenging and being unable to have sex with others can heighten a sense of disconnection. This, in turn, can have impacts on our mental health and wellbeing.
We also recognise the diversity of relationships in our communities. Some people live with their sexual partners, others reside in different households. Social distancing has made maintaining connections more complex and, in some cases, extremely difficult.
As a community, we know the importance of good communication and awareness-raising around health issues. We have shown great commitment in maintaining good health – in the case of sexual health, we are highly attuned to the risks of HIV and other STIs, and we implement strategies to prevent transmission. But the risks around coronavirus are very different – it is far easier to transmit.
While COVID-19 is not a sexually transmitted infection, physical intimacy with people carries a high risk of transmission. Coronavirus is passed on through droplets spread by coughing, sneezing, talking or by contact with contaminated surfaces. Direct personal contact such as touching, kissing and other intimate interactions are key methods of transmission. Sharing sex toys could also transmit the virus. Reducing physical contact is one of the ways we are halting the spread of coronavirus – and that is why we are being asked to continue observing physical distancing.
We know our communities are responsible when it comes to their health, and we understand the importance of knowing risks and taking precautions to reduce risk for both our own health, but also the health of the broader community.
The Australian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM) advises:
“It is important to be aware of how COVID-19 is transmitted and that the close contact that occurs during sex is a key risk factor for infection with the virus.
“There are a number of measures that individuals can take to reduce their risk of COVID-19 transmission, for example but not limited to, reducing the number of people you have sex with and engaging in encounters that do not involve touching.
“It is also important that contact tracing is made possible, should the need arise, so always ensure you have the contact information of your partners.
“You should continue to access regular sexual health testing and practice safe sex by always using condoms, PrEP, UVL (undetectable viral load), PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) or a combination.
“It is also important when having a sexual health check-up, to be open and talk to your sexual health clinician about any sex you may have had during this time.”
Remember, it is important for people not have sex if they are not feeling well, especially if they have symptoms of COVID-19 such as a sore throat, cough, fever, shortness of breath, runny or blocked nose, headache, loss of smell and/or taste, diarrhoea, muscle aches or joint pains. Equally, people should avoid having sex with someone who says they are unwell, even if their symptoms are mild.
The disruptions brought on by the pandemic have been challenging and it is still uncertain when lockdown restrictions will be fully lifted. Steps are now being undertaken that will see the easing of some restrictions in NSW, but the recommendation to stay 1.5m away from other people is still in place.
For now, as well as physical distancing, we continue to remind everyone practice good hygiene such as washing your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub, covering your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing with a tissue or a flex elbow, and avoiding close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms.
Anyone with symptoms such as a cough, fever, sore throat or shortness of breath should isolate themselves from others and get tested. Visit the NSW Government COVID-19 website at nsw.gov.au/covid-19 or contact the National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080 for your nearest testing clinic.
We thank everyone in our communities for continuing to play their part in halting the spread of COVID-19. It is because of your collective efforts that we have seen a sharp decline in coronavirus cases and restrictions are being eased. It’s important we stay the course and remain vigilant. We won’t be in this situation forever.
For useful information on COVID-19, casual sex and STIs, visit the NSW Government’s PlaySafe website here.
For up-to-date information on COVID-19 as it relates to LGBTQ communities, visit ACON’s COVID-19 online clearinghouse here.
Your clinician and other health providers can find more information here.
If you or someone you know requires support during this time, ACON provides confidential counselling to people in our communities seeking support in relation to their mental health and wellbeing. Contact ACON on (02) 9206 2000 or 1800 063 060.
Media and Communications Officer
+61 428 477 042 | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Kirby Institute
Media and Communications Manager
+61 432 894 029 | Lbamford@kirby.unsw.edu.au
Media and Communications Manager
+61 403 184 339 | Benjamin.Riley@ashm.org.au