Wearing face coverings, avoiding kissing and choosing positions where you are not face to face are among the recommendations from a leading sexual health charity to reduce the risk of catching coronavirus during sex.
Publishing advice on managing the risk, the Terrence Higgins Trust said asking people to abstain indefinitely was not realistic and that people needed to find a way “to balance our need for sex and intimacy with the risks of the spread of Covid-19”.
The guide comes as the charity’s research shows that the number of people seeking new sexual partners fell after the introduction of social-distancing measures in March. It found that people had abstained from sex outside their immediate household because of the restrictions.
After several months of lockdown and partial easing, the trust said it was no longer realistic to ask people to refrain from sex completely.
It advises that the best sexual partner during the pandemic is yourself or someone you live with. Masturbation, using sex toys or participating in phone or online sex are recommended as the safest options.
If having sex with someone outside your household, the charity advises having one regular partner or limiting the number of sexual partners as well as taking other precautions. It also recommends not having sex if you feel unwell and isolating if you have Covid-19 symptoms.
Potential sexual partners should discuss the virus and ask if they or anyone in their household have had symptoms or tested positive.
The trust advises hand-washing for 20 seconds before and after sex, not kissing, wearing a face covering during intercourse and picking positions that are not face to face.
Sexually active people are also advised to use condoms and dams for oral sex, because the virus is thought to be found in some bodily fluids.
Dr Michael Brady, the charity’s medical director, said: “We’re clear that abstaining from sex is the best way to protect yourself from coronavirus, but we hope by issuing this advice we will help people to manage the risks of Covid-19 while also being able to have and enjoy sex.”
The charity also stresses the importance of sexual health beyond the pandemic and recommends getting tested for sexually transmitted infections before starting to have sex again.
Lockdown measures could have helped slow HIV transmission rates, the charity has previously said, creating an “incredible opportunity” to “break the chain”.