Due to the social distancing measures which were introduced in March, the number of people seeking new sexual partners has plummeted, according to research.
The Terrence Higgins Trust (THT), the UK’s leading HIV and sexual health charity, found that 84 per cent of people had abstained from sex outside of their immediate household because of the restrictions.
However, after several months of the lockdown and its partial easing, THT said it was no longer realistic to ask people to completely refrain from sex.
Now, the charity has published guidelines on how to have safe sex while managing the risk of Covid-19.
In the guidance, the charity advised 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, as these can be done at a distance from others.
If having sex with someone outside of your household, THT advised having one regular partner or limiting the number of sexual partners as well as taking other precautions.
Potential sexual partners should also discuss Covid-19 and ask if they or anyone in their household have had symptoms or tested positive.
The charity also recommends not having sex if you feel unwell and to isolate if you have symptoms.
Sexual partners are advised to wash their hands for 20 seconds before and after sex to help reduce the risk, to refrain from kissing and to wear a face covering during intercourse.
The charity also advises picking positions where participants are not face to face.
Dr Michael Brady, THT's medical director, said: “Sex is a very important part of life and asking people to avoid sex indefinitely is not realistic.
“That's why, as the Covid-19 pandemic continues, we all need to find ways to balance our need for sex and intimacy with the risks of the spread of Covid-19.”
Dr Brady added that abstaining from sex is “the best way to protect yourself from coronavirus”.
The charity has also stressed the importance of sexual health outside of the pandemic and recommends getting an STI test before starting to have sex again.
THT previously said lockdown measures could have helped slow HIV transmission rates, creating an “incredible opportunity” to “break the chain” of HIV infection spread.
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As it can take around one month after possible exposure to HIV for it to show up on a test, anyone who has not had sex since before lockdown will get an accurate result.
Ian Green, chief executive of Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “It’s estimated that around 7,500 people in the UK are living with undiagnosed HIV, which is bad for their health and means they may unwittingly pass it on.
“If everyone is able to use their time in lockdown to get tested and know their HIV status, we can ensure something really good comes out of the devastation of the Covid crisis.”
To find out more about getting an at-home HIV test, visit 56 Dean Street’s Test Now, Stop HIV website.