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Health experts advise caution in post-lockdown sex

Key sexual health organisations have released new advice on how to minimise the risk of transmitting COVID-19 through intimate contact, as lockdown restrictions begin to be lifted around Australia.

A joint statement from New South Wales LGBTIQ health organisation ACON, The Kirby Institute, and the Australian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM) has urged people to “remain vigilant” and continue physical distancing, including in terms of casual sex.

The new recommendations are in line with guidance from state and federal health bodies.

While COVID-19 is not known to be sexually transmitted as such, the physical closeness of sex comes with a high risk of transmission.

“Coronavirus is passed on through droplets spread by coughing, sneezing, talking, or by contact with contaminated surfaces,” the health groups said in the statement.

“Direct personal contact such as touching, kissing, and other intimate interactions are key methods of transmission.

“Sharing sex toys could also transmit the virus.”

The organisations stressed the need for continued physical distancing.

“Reducing physical contact is one of the ways we are halting the spread of coronavirus – and that is why we are being asked to continue observing physical distancing,” they said.

“The best way to prevent COVID-19 transmission is to avoid casual sex with people you are not living with or who are not your regular sexual partner; this advice has not changed.”

The statement acknowledged the diversity of relationships in the LGBTIQ community and the potential emotional impacts of distancing.

“We recognise that for some people in our communities, long periods of physical distancing can be challenging and being unable to have sex with others can heighten a sense of disconnection,” the health groups said.

“This, in turn, can have impacts on our mental health and wellbeing.

“Social distancing has made maintaining connections more complex and, in some cases, extremely difficult.”

Anyone feeling unwell is advised not to have sex, especially if they have coronavirus signs such as fever or respiratory symptoms.

ASHM has advised people to minimise their number of sexual partners and to consider activities that do not involve physical contact.

“It is also important that contact tracing is made possible, should the need arise, so always ensure you have the contact information of your partners,” they said.

ASHM recommended continuing regular sexual health testing and making decisions about HIV and STI prevention by using condoms, PrEP, undetectable viral load, PEP, or a combination.

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