COVID-19 and sex
To slow the transmission rate of COVID-19, Québec’s public health authority asks us to keep two metres apart from others. With that in mind, how do sexual relations work? Here is some information to help you reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission in a sexual context.
Note: This text has been independently adapted from an online publication by New York City’s Health Department.
- The virus can be transmitted when a person is closer than two metres to another person who is infected with COVID-19, when the infected person speaks, coughs or sneezes.
- The virus can also be transmitted by direct contact with the saliva, mucus (such as a runny nose) or breath of the person infected with COVID-19.
- The virus can be transmitted even if the person infected with COVID-19 has no symptoms.
The virus is easily transmitted through kissing and through the droplets in the breath of an infected person within a two-metre radius. More research is necessary regarding sexual bodily fluids. For the moment, we know that:
- The virus has been found in the feces, sperm and blood of infected people.
- The virus has not yet been found in vaginal secretions.
We don’t know if COVID-19 can be transmitted through anal sex, vaginal or frontal sex, rimming (analingus, oral-anal contact) or blow jobs. We know that other coronaviruses are not effectively transmitted by sexual means.
The virus has also been found in ocular (eye) secretions.
To avoid or reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission:
- You are your own best sex partner! Masturbation carries no risk of virus transmission, especially if you wash your hands and sex toys with water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after. If you masturbate with someone else, staying physically distant helps reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
- Your second-best sex partner is someone you live with. Limit close contact, including sex, to a small, closed circle of people.
- Limit your sexual relations with people who don’t live with you. If you have sex with other people, reduce the number of partners and the frequency of your encounters.
- If you have group sex, limit the number of people you invite. Choose a large, well-ventilated space.
- If you meet people online or if you’re a sex worker, try to take a break from in-person meetings. Try sexting, video calls or chat conversations. If you’re a sex worker, the sex work program with the organization RÉZO has created a “Guide de prévention COVID-19” (COVID-19 prevention guide, in French only) at https://www.rezosante.org/guide-tds-covid-19/. Health Initiative for Men also gives guidelines about sex work https://checkhimout.ca/covid19/sex-work/
Talk with your partner(s):
- Discuss the type of sexual activity you want to do.
- Ask: is he having symptoms, or has he had any recently? If yes, it’s better for your physical health to not have sex with this person. Keep in mind that a person can be infected with COVID-19 without having symptoms.
- Ask: is one of the people involved in the sexual relationship at greater risk of complications related to COVID-19? For example, diabetes, hypertension, current or recent cancer treatment, weakened immune system, and so on.
- Talk about precautions to take during sex to reduce the risks. For instance:
- Wear a mask and maintain physical distance. A mask provides additional protection, since sexual activity often leads to faster, heavier breathing.
- Avoid or limit kissing and saliva exchange.
- Use sex positions that limit face-to-face contact.
- Use physical barriers, such as a wall, that allows for sexual contact while limiting close physical contact.
- Use condoms and dental dams (latex squares) to reduce contact with saliva, sperm and fecal matter.
- Exchange contact information if possible, so you can let each other know if one of you tests positive for COVID-19 afterward.
Other strategies that can help reduce your risk
- Take a shower with soap before and after having sex. Wash your face and hands well.
- If someone comes to your place, disinfect surfaces and wash the sheets.
- Limit the number of partners and the number of sexual relations.
If you or your partner are experiencing symptoms related to COVID-19, avoid having sex. The symptoms are:
- Dry cough (new or worsening)
- Difficulty breathing
- Sudden loss of sense of smell without nasal congestion, with or without losing the sense of taste
Other symptoms have also been reported. If you have two of the three following symptoms, you may have COVID-19:
- General malaise (muscle pain, headache, intense fatigue or major loss of appetite)
- Sore throat
Many people have mild to moderate symptoms, others have none at all, and others have severe symptoms.
If you are having symptoms, call 1 877 644-4545. To learn more, visit:
- The Gouvernement du Québec website: quebec.ca/en/health/health-issues/a-z/2019-coronavirus/
- The Public Health Canada website: canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/coronavirus-disease-covid-19.html
People living with HIV who have an undetectable viral load and a strong immune system are not at additional risk of contracting COVID-19, nor are they at higher risk of complications if they do. People living with HIV who have a low CD4 count may be at risk of complications.
Just like HIV-negative people, people living with HIV may be at increased risk if:
- They are aged 65 or older.
- They have an existing health condition, such as:
- heart disease;
- hypertension (high blood pressure);
- lung disease;
- They have a weakened immune system due to a health problem or treatment such as chemotherapy.
Because the health system is in high demand, testing services may be modified for a while. Contact the clinic near you to learn more.
Limiting your social contacts can be hard on your well-being. The stress of current events might even make you want to be around other people more than usual! Here are a few tips to help you take care of yourself and stay in touch with people.
- Avoid overexposing yourself to the news, as this can create anxiety.
- Identify people you trust and don’t hesitate to reach out to them by telephone, text message or social media. Talk about what you’re going through and what you’re feeling.
- Stay active. Go out for a walk, go jogging, take an online yoga class, take the time to cook recipes you enjoy.
- Practice relaxation exercises.
For more ideas, visit :
- the Ordre des psychologues du Québec web page (in French only) Coronavirus (COVID-19): conseils psychologiques et informations au grand public
- HIM – Health Initiative for Men, an Ontario organization https://checkhimout.ca/covid19/covid19-you/
Here are a few quick tips:
- Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with water and soap. If you can’t, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Disinfect the surface before you prepare your dose.
- Avoid sharing your equipment and your cigarettes.
- Prepare your dose yourself and try not to touch anyone else’s drugs or equipment.
- Drop your used equipment in a bio-container.
- Try to have extra equipment and medication on hand (ex.: Naloxone, methadone) during the pandemic.
For more details on drug use and COVID-19, check out these links:
- L’Anonyme (2020). COVID-19 – Prévention pour les personnes qui consomment des substances psychoactives (In French only).
- Harm Reduction Coalition. https://harmreduction.org/miscellaneous/covid-19-guidance-for-people-who-use-drugs-and-harm-reduction-programs/
- Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux. Advice and preventive measures for drug users and the homeless – Coronavirus (COVID-19)
- Yale Program in Addiction Medicine (2020). Guidance for People Who Use Substances on COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus)
To avoid contracting or transmitting COVID-19, Québec’s public health authority asks that you:
- Wash your hands often with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if water and soap are not available.
- Don’t touch your mouth, nose or eyes without washing your hands first.
- Keep a distance of two metres (six feet) from other people.
- Avoid shaking hands and giving high-fives.
- If you’re coughing or sneezing, cover your mouth and nose with your elbow. If you use a tissue, throw it out right away and wash your hands afterward.
- Stay home.
- Avoid contact with others if you’re sick.
- Isolate for 14 days after coming back from a trip.
Further information is available on the Gouvernement du Québec website.
For reliable information, visit these websites:
- Gouvernement du Québec: quebec.ca/en/health/health-issues/a-z/2019-coronavirus/
- Government of Canada: canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/coronavirus-disease-covid-19.html
The recommendations on this page are also inspired by the following references: