The Advocate July/Aug 2022
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Having Sex in the Time of Corona? Wear a Mask, Say Harvard Docs


For those who need to minimize the risk of contracting COVID-19, abstinence is the best policy, since (most) sex requires a break of the social distancing guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

However, an interminable abstinence period is not a realistic expectation for many. Moreover, an association with sex as "dangerous" may also have "insidious psychological effects at a time when people are especially susceptible to mental health difficulties," reports a new study from three Harvard University researchers.

This study, published in Annals of Internal Medicine, outlines "risk reduction techniques" for having sex in a pandemic with people outside of one's quarantine bubble.

The recommendations? First, reduce one's number of sexual partners. Second, avoid sex with partners showing COVID-19 symptoms such as fever, cough, and a loss of taste or smell. Third, wear a mask during sex. Fourth, avoid kissing and "sexual behaviors with a risk for fecal-oral transmission or that involve semen or urine."

The study also recommends showering before and after sex, as well as cleaning the setting with soap or alcohol wipes.

Additionally, the study outlines low-risk sexual activities like masturbation and phone and video sex, although it warns about the "risk of screenshots" that could be used for "sexual extortion" regarding the latter practice. Having sex within one's quarantine bubble also carries risk if a partner has ventured out into public. Masks are not necessary for those in this category.

In addition to the novel strain of coronavirus, sexually transmitted infections have also not gone away. In fact, health experts are worried that STIs could spike during this period as medical resources have been diverted to respond to the pandemic. At-risk communities like young people, people of color, and LGBTQ+ folks should be especially vigilant in continuing protection like condoms and PrEP, if applicable.

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