Latest advice on gay sex, hook-ups and stopping PrEP during coronavirus

Latest advice on gay sex, hook-ups and stopping PrEP during coronavirus

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Gay, Twinks in bed

Sex is becoming a new frontline in the fight against coronavirus as it is high risk for passing on COVID-19.

Now sexual health organizations are giving fresh advice to gay and bi men about sex, including alternatives.

They are also advising people how to safely take a break from PrEP as they may not need it. And they are advising how to access sexual health services if you need them.

Meanwhile, there is also fresh advice for people living with HIV.

GSN has already published this advice to gay and bi men about sex during the pandemic.

However, a survey released this week indicated that 28% of UK LGBT+ people would still go on dates during the pandemic. Moreover, 16% said they would have sex or hook-ups.

What are the risks?

Dr Michael Brady, medical director of leading UK sexual health organization Terrence Higgins Trust, offers the updated advice.

He warns:

‘The virus can be passed on through direct contact with saliva or mucus, so this would include kissing. The COVID-19 virus has also been found in the faeces of people who are infected so rimming may also be a risk for infection.

‘Unfortunately washing your hands and not kissing someone during sex isn’t enough to stop the virus.’

Some people are still asking for hook-ups, saying they are ‘healthy’ so it’s safe. But Brady warns:

‘Even if someone doesn’t have symptoms, they may still have the virus. It’s estimated perhaps as many as one in three people with COVID-19 have no symptoms – but can still pass the virus on to others. That could be you or a potential partner.’

If you still insist on hooking up despite the risk

UK organization Prepster says there are good reasons to avoid hook-ups.

It says: ‘You’ll also increase the risk of passing COVID-19 onto others you or your hook-up are in social contact with – including family members, housemates, and regular partners.

‘If any of those people have an underlying serious health condition and get COVID-19, the implications for their health could be serious.

‘There’s another reason hook-ups are being discouraged: many health services are overwhelmed with dealing with COVID-19 and are unable to offer usual health services.

‘Routine STI testing is being reduced. If you get or pass on an STI during a hook-up, it’s going to be harder to get it tested and treated than usual.’

However, people who ignore the safety advice and do still meet strangers or friends for sex may be able to slightly reduce the risk. Prepster advises:

  • Avoiding sex that involves the exchange of saliva, such as kissing, snogging or spit-play.
  • Washing your hands and face in soapy water before and after sex.
  • Showering before and after sex (sharing towels with your hook-up isn’t a good idea; use a clean towel each or have your own from home).
  • Reducing the numbers of hook-ups that you have.
  • Reducing the numbers of people involved in each hook-up.
  • Reduce the amount of body contact – we hear of some people making their own glory holes and having sex through them, or mutual masturbation, or spanking, or using condoms.
  • Having an encounter that does not involve touching, and involves staying a distance away from each other – such as watching each other jack off, or dressing up.
  • Having an encounter that does not involve face-to-face contact, such as fucking doggy-style.
  • Not sharing sex toys.

But sex fun isn’t off the table

However, Brady says for people who still want to have sex, the safest partner is someone they live with. Obviously this is not the case if they are feeling ill or have any COVID-19 symptoms.

Meanwhile, it is entirely safe to have sex fun on your own.

Brady says:

‘There is no risk of passing on coronavirus through masturbation and there’s plenty of evidence that shows masturbation can relieve stress and anxiety. If you use sex toys, make sure you wash them and your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds before and after.’

Indeed, sex toy sales have soared during the pandemic.

Meanwhile Brady adds: ‘Technology also now means there are different ways to connect with partners, eg phone sex or video dates using WhatsApp or other platforms. Just make sure you aren’t pressured into anything that makes you feel uncomfortable.’

Moreover, it’s obviously fine to use dating and hook-up apps to make friends and chat.

Gay Webcam sex
Cam sex is a good way of getting through the lockdown, if everyone consents. .

Time to take a break from PrEP?

Sexual health organizations are also suggesting people may take a break from PrEP during the pandemic.

People who are self-isolating and not having sex do not need to take the drug, which reduces the chances of getting HIV if taken properly.

Of course, some may still need PrEP. For example if they live with a sexual partner who they aren’t 100% sure is HIV negative, or a partner with HIV who still has a high viral load. Those who are HIV positive with an undetectable viral load can’t pass HIV on.

Leading UK sexual health clinic Dean Street advises people how to stop taking daily PrEP safely.

If you are taking it to protect yourself during sex, you can safely stop PrEP if you have had two daily doses since your last risk (or the last time you had sex).

Meanwhile, if you are taking it because you share injection needles, you should continue PrEP for seven days after the last risk before stopping.

Dean Street says you can also restart PrEP very quickly. You should just take two PrEP tablets. You’ll have protection for anal sex two hours later. Then you must continue taking PrEP once a day every day for at least two days after your last risk.

Likewise, ‘event-based PrEP’ is also suitable. But only for people whose main HIV risk is from anal sex without condoms.

For event-based PrEP, take two tablets and you’ll be protected two hours later. Continue to take PrEP daily for as long as you are having sex. You can stop once you’ve taken two daily doses since your last risk.

What if you need sexual health services?

It may be best to order a self-testing kit if you think you have been in contact with a sexual infection.

If you have no symptoms, you can wait until after the window period – the time it takes for the infection to show – before you test.

For gonorrhoea and chlamydia, this is two weeks. For HIV, this is four weeks after exposure. Meanwhile for syphilis it’s six weeks. 

However, while medical services are stretched there are still times when you should get help.

These include if you’ve been exposed to HIV and need PEP. That course of drugs must be started quickly and in less than 72 hours to try to prevent you getting HIV.

Likewise you should seek advice if you have discharge from your penis or anus or other symptoms. Or if you have already been diagnosed with an STI and need treatment.

HIV positive people and COVID-19

Meanwhile, National AIDS Trust has pulled together the latest COVID-19 advice for HIV positive people.

At the moment, the latest medical advice is that people with HIV are not at greater risk of getting COVID-19 or of severe disease.

However, if you have a low CD4 count (below 200) or a detectable viral load, you may be at higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus. If your CD4 count is very low, you should follow the latest advice for the very vulnerable.

The UK charity also has advice on people’s rights at work if they are HIV positive in the UK. And links to other resources.

Meanwhile, there’s more advice for HIV positive people about coronavirus here.

Health advice for all LGBT+ people

There’s general cornavirus health advice for all LGBT+ people here. This includes links to advice for people with cancer and to LGBT+ supportive medical services in the US.

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Author: Tris Reid-Smith

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