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Sex, Social Distancing and Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Sex and COVID-19

Maintaining our sexual health is an important part of our overall wellbeing. The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting how we live, the nature of our relationships and how we experience intimacy with others. As the guidance around physical distancing evolves, so does our ability to spend time with people outwith our household. Scotland is currently in phase 3, which means that people are now able to form extended households, in certain circumstances, without the need to maintain physical distancing (when all members are free from COVID-19 symptoms). Intimate contact including kissing is a risk for COVID-19 transmission, therefore people are still asked to use physical distancing with those outside of their household/extended household.

Public health advice is updated regularly to ensure our interactions with other people are as safe as possible. This advice is subject to change as the situation develops. We will update this information as the guidance changes.

More detailed guidance on COVID-19 can be found on the Scottish Government website. You can also find more detailed guidance on COVID-19 from the NHS on the NHS Inform website.

Common questions about sex and COVID-19

    How does COVID-19 spread?

    You can get infected with COVID-19 from another person who has the virus. The virus spreads mainly through droplets in the saliva, breath and mucus of people who are infected. The infected person does not have to look or feel unwell to spread the virus. The risk of the virus passing is highest when people are close together; therefore the Scottish Government recommends physically distancing 2 metres (6 feet) from people not part of your household or extended household. The virus can pass from someone with COVID-19 even when they don’t have any symptoms. There is ongoing research about COVID-19 and how it spreads.

    COVID-19 has been found in faeces (poo) of people who are infected with the virus, although we don’t know yet whether this could pass to other people. We do not know if COVID-19 can be spread through vaginal or anal sex, but other types of coronaviruses have been found in various body fluids.




    Can I have sex?

    Yes, within households you can have sex with your sexual partner if you’re both feeling well and you both consent to sex. If you don’t live together, you can form an extended household with your sexual partner without the need to physically distance as long as you are both feeling well and you both consent to sex. Most people who were shielding can now follow the same advice as the general population. However there are still some groups of people at increased risk and everyone previously advised to shield is recommended to follow physical distancing and hygiene measures.

    You should avoid sexual contact if you have tested positive for COVID-19, have symptoms of COVID-19 or have been advised to self-isolate. You will be asked to self-isolate at home for 10 days if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or you have tested positive for it. If you live with someone who has symptoms or has tested positive, or if you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive, you will be asked to self-isolate at home for 14 days. Self-isolating means no physical contact – no hugging, kissing or sex, and you are advised to sleep separately.

    It’s important to be aware of your own and your partner’s mental health during this period and the potential for reduced enthusiasm for sexual contact. Healthy relationships and open communication are key.

    Making sex with people outside of your household or extended household safer

    It is important to make any sexual contact as safe as possible. If you don’t live with your sexual partner, or they are not part of your extended household, consider moving in with them or forming an extended household. Ensure they are not still shielding for any reason, self-isolating and are not part of another extended household.

    • Condoms can reduce contact with semen (cum) or saliva (spit) especially during oral and anal sex. If you need access to free condoms we can post them to you
    • Avoid kissing as this is likely to increase your risk of getting COVID-19. Rimming (mouth on anus) may also increase the risk of COVID-19.
    • Washing yourself and any sex toys before and after sex is recommended to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. We advise not sharing sex toys.
    • Take usual precautions during sex including contraception or PrEP if these are relevant to you.

    If you decide to have sex outside of your household or extended household-

    • Monitor yourself for symptoms
    • Stick to one regular sex partner
    • Be extra vigilant if you are over 65 and with others over 65 or those with serious medical conditions.
    • Use face coverings and good hand hygiene to minimise spread to others.
    • Practice social distancing as much as possible

    If you develop any COVID-19 symptoms that you inform this partner so that they can be aware of the need to monitor themselves and self-isolate.


    What about contraception and pregnancy?

    If you’re planning to avoid pregnancy, contraceptive options currently available include condoms and the contraceptive pill. Availability of other types of contraception (including the implant, injection and coil) are now increasing as restrictions lift. Emergency contraception is available at Sandyford if you haven’t been able to access this through your pharmacy. Termination of pregnancy (abortion) services are also available for women who would like to discuss their pregnancy options.

    If you’re thinking about trying for a pregnancy during the COVID-19 pandemic, there may be additional things to consider. Pregnant women have been listed as 'clinically vulnerable' from COVID-19 as a precaution. Research regarding pregnancy and COVID-19 is ongoing. For the latest information about COVID-19 and pregnancy, visit The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists website.  


    What about STIs and HIV?

    To prevent the transmission of STIs and HIV, free condoms are still available during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you would like a supply of condoms, please use the link here and we will post them to you. PrEP is available at Sandyford for people at higher risk of HIV infection. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, PrEP appointments are being carried out over the phone and then arrangements can be made for testing and dispensing the tablets. You can find out more about our PrEP service here.

    The Brownlee clinic provides HIV treatment and care for people living in the NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde area. Services including supply of medications are continuing during COVID-19 restrictions. If you are living with HIV and need care in Glasgow, please phone the Brownlee on 0141 211 1076.

    Young people and online sexual activity.

    If you are under the age of 18, it is safer to avoid engaging in any online sexual activity as there are significant risks in people trying to harm you, steal your images and pretend to be someone they are not.  If someone you chat to online wants to meet up face to face, there is greater COVID-19 risk, but your personal safety may be compromised as you don’t know that this person is who they claim to be. There are many options for reporting abuse online if you are worried. You can either do this yourself or ask a trusted adult to help you. 


    Here are some websites which can help:

    If you have been sexually assaulted or raped?

    Archway services for people who have recently been sexually assaulted or raped are open 24 hours a day during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Rape Crisis Scotland is also able to give advice during this time.

    What sexual health services can I access at this time?

    Services currently available at Sandyford


    Rape Crisis Scotland

    You can call 08088 01 03 02 everyday from 6pm to midnight. 

    THT Direct

    You can call 0808 802 1221 10am to 1pm and 2pm to 5pm Monday to Friday.

    LGBT Helpline Scotland

    You can call 0300 123 2523 every Tuesday and Wednesday between 12-9pm call 0300 123 2523 every Tuesday and Wednesday between 12-9pm.