Sex in the time of the new coronavirus: what are the risks of infection?

Social distancing is just one of the strategies in place to limit and contain the spread of the new coronavirus. To do this, we keep a distance of at least one meter between people. The new virus is spread by the the now famous droplets, which are small drops of infected saliva that, when we cough, sneeze or talk, are able to come in contact with all those around us. But now, as restrictions are relaxing, it’s normal to be asking some basic questions. Is it safe to have sex? And what about kissing? What is the risk of infection and getting sick? Here’s what we know about the relationships between sex and the new coronavirus.

How is the new coronavirus spread?
COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that is principally spread through droplets of infected saliva. This is why it is extremely difficult to avoid contact with these droplets during sex. For example, kissing easily spreads the disease from one person to another. A recent study published in Jama even suggests that the coronavirus is able to survive not only in the testicles, but also in the sperm of some patients affected by COVID-19. It is still uncertain, however, if the disease is spread sexually.

What is the risk of becoming infected?
During the coronavirus pandemic, experts recommend to refrain from casual sexual encounters. To entirely avoid being infected, it is better to engage in sexual activity alone. The other safe option to avoid spreading the new coronavirus is to have sex only with one regular partner. In the current phase, it is still necessary to limit personal contact to only to close relations outside of one’s immediate family, and this would include for sexual activity. If you decide to have sex with someone, it is better to be careful with respect to the partner’s health, asking if he/her have had symptoms in the last 14 days.

Advice from the experts
The Società Italiana di Contraccezione - Sic (Italian Society of Contraception) has created some tips for those who wish to partake in safe sexual conduct while minimizing the risk of becoming infected with the coronavirus. First of all, the safest person is the one you live with or were living with before the lockdown. COVID-19 can be spread by kissing, by oral sex and sexual intercourse. Long-distance couples could try sexting or exchanging erotic messages. One should also give more attention to hygiene both before and after sex, and remember that, even if birth-control prevents unwanted pregnancies and condoms can prevent STDs, they cannot prevent the spread of the coronavirus. It is better to avoid sexual relations and close contact if one or both partners are sick or test positive for the coronavirus (in this case, follow the guidelines for self-quarantine).
When in doubt, the Sic recommends that you can always contact your family doctor or specialist.

HFTHQ 20-16