Let’s talk about sex and COVID-19!
Sex is an important part of our lives. The World Health Organisation describes sexual health as “…a state of physical, mental and social well-being…”. This means that healthy sex is physically and mentally good for us, and should always take place with the consent of partners. Sex is mutually pleasurable when there is a shared and clearly communicated understanding that we definitely want to have sex, or want to engage in a sexual act together. The legal age of sexual consent in Ireland is 17. Read more about consent here and on the website of the Union of Students in Ireland.
COVID-19 can be passed from person-to-person through intimate or close contact (including kissing and sexual activity) with an infected person who may or may not be showing any obvious symptoms.
There are some things you can do to minimise the risk to yourself and others:
- Do not engage in sexual activity if you have tested positive for COVID-19 or have been asked to self-isolate;
- Wash your hands (and any sex toys) with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after sexual activity;
- Masturbation or remote sexual activity are safe alternatives to physical sexual activity. Before you decide to engage in online sexual activity including sexting, consider the risks to yourself and others. You can read more about sexting here ;
- Avoid having sex or kissing partners who are not part of your small circle of close contacts;
- Heavy breathing and panting can spread the coronavirus so consider wearing a face covering during sexual activity;
- Always practice safer sex using condoms and dental dams which can reduce contact with saliva, semen or faeces during oral, vaginal and anal sex;
Read more about sex and COVID-19 on sexualwellbeing.ie
Read more about how COVID-19 is spread
Read more about sex for men-who-have-sex-with men and COVID-19 on man2man.ie
Read more about HIV and COVID-19 at HIV Ireland Ltd
Safer sex practices
As well as protecting yourself from coronavirus, it is important to take the usual safer sex precautions to protect yourself from unplanned pregnancy, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and Human-immunodeficiency Virus (HIV):
- Condoms used properly can reduce the risk of unplanned pregnancy, HIV and STIs. Condoms are freely available from dispensers situated throughout the Trinity campus;
- Make an appointment with TCD’s College Health Service to talk to a GP about different methods of contraception or to get tested for a STI. Please note that there are restrictions to hospital and clinic-based HIV and sexual health services throughout Ireland during the Coronavirus outbreak;
- The morning after pill (emergency contraception) is available from pharmacies without a prescription or from a doctor or family planning clinic. It is most effective the sooner it is taken after unprotected sex up to a maximum of 120 hours.
- PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is a medication that when taken daily is highly effective for preventing HIV transmission if you are at substantial risk of acquiring HIV but there is no evidence that it will prevent COVID-19;
- PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) is a medication that can help prevent HIV infection if after a single high risk event. . There is no evidence that it will act as a treatment for COVID-19.
Unplanned pregnancy services
My Options provides support and information for those experiencing an unplanned pregnancy. The service continues to operate as normal during this time. Freephone 1800 828 010 or visit myoptions.ie.
Face-to-face unplanned pregnancy counselling services have moved their services to phone or remote support and are available free-of-charge. They continue to provide the same level of service during the coronavirus outbreak. You can find their contact details on myoptions.ie.
During the current COVID-19 public health emergency, it may not be possible to attend a doctor in person to access abortion services. You can have your pre-abortion consultation by phone or video link with a doctor. Find out more information on myoptions.ie.