Sex and COVID-19: Youth Guide to Safe Sex During the Pandemic

Social distancing, flattening the curve, pandemic!? So many things have changed so rapidly over the past few weeks. But even with all the changes,one thing probably hasn't changed: people are still having sex! There is so much that we still do not know about COVID-19 but there is a lot of that we do know and ways you can stay safe while you are trying to get busy.

COVID-19 Basics

What is it?

COVID-19 is the infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus.

This new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.

What are the symptoms?

  • The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness, and dry cough.

  • Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea.

  • Some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don't feel unwell.

  • Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment.

  • Around 1 out of every 6 people who gets COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing.

  • Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness.

  • People with fever, cough and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention.

How is it spread?

People can catch COVID-19 from others who have the virus.

  • The disease can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth which are spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales.

  • These droplets land on objects and surfaces around the person.

  • Other people then catch COVID-19 by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth.

  • People can also catch COVID-19 if they breathe in droplets from a person with COVID-19 who coughs out or exhales droplets.

  • This is why it is important to stay more than 1 meter (3 feet) away from a person who is sick

How can I protect myself?

  • Wash your hands

  • Stay home

  • Avoid contact with others if you are sick

  • Cough and sneeze into your elbow

  • Wear a mask only if you are sick or caring for someone who is sick

  • Clean surfaces

  • Social distancing

  • Have food and supplies at home to avoid exposure



  • Call your regular health care provider.

  • Emergency room if you are having severe symptoms

Safe Sex and COVID-19

Why are people having sex during the pandemic?

  • Pleasure, intimacy, and (among heterosexual couples) desired pregnancy.

  • Some people feel lonely or bored or stressed

  • Negative consequences

  • Emotional and physical harm

  • sexually transmitted infections, including HIV;

  • unintended pregnancy(among heterosexual couples)

What is a sexually transmitted infection?

  • An infection that you can get from having unprotected vaginal, oral, or anal sex.

  • STI’s can affect everyone! Men, women, and babies. Some can be cured, some cannot.

What are the symptoms?

The most common symptom of STI’s is NO SYMPTOMS. Other people may have symptoms including:

  • Unusual or change in discharge

  • Abdominal pain

  • Pain in testicles

  • Bumps, lumps, or blisters

  • Vaginal bleeding

  • Pain/burning when peeing

Why are STI’s Bad?

  • Even though someone may not have symptoms, they can still have serious health consequences.

  • Some people can have scarring of their fallopian tubes which can cause problems with fertility and prevent them from having babies in the future.

  • Some people can get an infection in their abdomen called pelvic inflammatory disease and even death.

What are the different types?

  • HIV, HPV (genital warts), syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, trichomonas, and herpes.

  • Some are caused by bacteria and can be treated with antibiotics. Some are caused by viruses and cannot be cured. (HIV, HPV, Herpes). There are some other types of infections people can get even if they are not sexually active but are more common if they are (Bacterial Vaginosis, Yeast infection, Urinary Tract Infection)

  • Bacterial: Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Syphilis,

  • Viral: Herpes, Human papillomavirus, HIV

  • Protozoa: trichomonas

  • Other: Bacterial Vaginosis, Yeast infection, Urinary tract infection

What if I am worried about HIV?

  • HIV is one of the most serious sexually transmitted infections someone can get

  • HIV is spread by 4 different bodily fluids: blood , breast milk, vaginal and semen

  • The most common ways someone can get HIV is sex, child birth, and sharing needles

  • HIV is a virus that attacks T-cells which are important for fighting infection

  • It weakens the immune system

  • There is currently no cure to the disease

  • Medications can help people with HIV to live long healthy lives and to reduce the spread

  • If you had sex within the last 72 hours you can take medication to prevent HIV called Post-Exposure Prophylaxis

  • Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis is a way for people who do not have HIV but who are at very high risk of getting HIV to prevent HIV infection by taking a pill every day.

How do you prevent STI’s?

  • Every person has the right to protect himself or herself against STIs.

  • The surest way to prevent an STI is not to have vaginal, oral, or anal sex.

  • Everyone has the right to refuse unsafe sex (or sex that is unwanted for any reason).

  • Use condoms correctly

  • Both partners can practice mutual monogamy.

  • This means not having any sex partners outside their primary relationship and is also known as “being faithful.”

  • However, a person can already be infected (even without knowing it), or may not be completely faithful.

  • HPV vaccines can protect both males and females against many strains of the virus and prevent cancer

Can I get COVID-19 from having sex?

Unlike sexually transmitted infections, there is no evidenceCOVID-19 is not spread by vaginal fluids or semen.

However, it is spread from close contact with other people.

  • Breathing closely can pass COVID-19.

  • Touching contaminated surfaces can pass it.

  • Kissing can easily pass COVID-19.

  • Rimming (mouth on anus) or oral sex might spread COVID-19 because the virus in feces may enter your mouth.

How can I practice safe sex during the pandemic?

  • You are your safest sex partner. Masturbation will not spread COVID-19, especially if you wash your hands (and any sex toys) with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after sex.

  • Video dates, talking and texting may be options for you. Be careful who you share your personal information, pictures, and videos with.

  • If you do have a sexual partner, someone who you are living with or who you have constant contact with is the safest.

  • You should avoid close contact — including sex — with anyone outside your household. If you do have sex with others, have as few partners as possible. You should not meet up with new people or partners.

  • Condoms and dental dams can reduce contact with saliva or feces, especially during oral or anal sex. Condoms also prevent STI’s.

  • Washing up before and after sex is more important than ever. Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Wash sex toys with soap and warm water.

Should I get tested for STI’s during this time? How?

  • Yes, if you are having symptoms, you should get tested. Some testing centers are closed or have restricted hours. You can call your health care provider’s office and find out if they are offering testing. Some health care providers will treat you based on your symptoms and will not do testing first to keep you safe from being exposed to COVID-19.

  • Testing for STI’s can be done from your urine, blood, saliva, and from vaginal or penile swabs.

  • There are some websites that offer free testing kits that are shipped to your home., LetsGetChecked Home Health Testing

Should I encourage my partner to get tested?

  • Yes, because if you are treated and your partner is not and you have sex again you can get it an STI again.

  • There is something called Expedited Partner Treatment which is when your health care provider gives you a prescription for your partner to get treated.

What if I am worried about pregnancy?

  • Signs you may be pregnant include missing a period, nausea and vomiting, weight gain, and breast tenderness. If you think you are pregnant, you should take a pregnancy test as soon as possible.

  • You should call your health care provider as soon as possible to schedule an appointment to discuss options.

  • If it is within 3-5 days of having unprotected sex you can take emergency contraception which is a medication to prevent pregnancy. You can see your health care provider to get a prescription or buy it over the counter.

I want to start birth control or need a refill, what should I do?

  • There are many different types of birth control options!

  • Some birth control methods like the pill, patch, and ring can be sent to the pharmacy or even delivered to your house.

  • Other birth control methods like the shot, the implant, or the IUD require an appointment with a health care provider. Some clinics have restricted hours because of COVID-19 and are not offering these methods right now.

  • Call your healthcare provider to find out more about what services they are offering.

  • Methods like the withdrawal method and fertility awareness are free and do not require a prescription but are less effective.

I’m worried, how do I get in contact with a health care provider?

  • Even though many health care facilities are closed, many have increased access and have video visits and telephone numbers you can call and ask your questions and even have medications sent to the pharmacy. Before you go to the emergency room or the clinic call your health care provider!

Are there situations where I should go to urgent care or to the emergency room?

  • If you are having symptoms of a severe COVID-19 infection such as shortness of breath, you should be seen by a health care provider.

  • If you are having severe abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, fever, pain with sex you could have a serious infection called PID and should be seen by a health care provider.

  • If you have testicular swelling and pain, you should be seen by a health care provider.

Take Away Points

Be informed

  • Know how COVID-19 spreads.

  • Know how STI’s are spread.

Know the signs

  • You can get COVID-19 from a person who has it and who may not have symptoms

  • Symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough, sore throat or shortness of breath.

  • You can get an STI from a person who has it and who may not have symptoms

  • Symptoms of STI’s are burning, change in vaginal discharge, pain with urination.


  • Avoid contact with people who are not in your household or who you do not have regular contact with

  • Self exploration is healthy and normal

  • Choose not to have sex

  • Use condoms during sex


  • Get a prescription for emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy

  • Get a prescription for pain medications and menstrual hygiene products

  • Get refills for your birth control pills, patches, or rings. Make an appointment for other birth control options.

  • Buy a home pregnancy test

  • Get a prescription for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis if you are worried about HIV

  • Make a plan for how to reach your health care provider- phone call, video visits, and find out their clinic hours.

Get Help

  • If you are concerned about COVID-19, you should avoid contact with other people, stay home, practice social distancing and wear a mask. Contact your health care provider if your symptoms worsen to find out if you need testing. Tell your close contacts

  • If you are concerned about STI’s, use condoms,tell your partners, contact your health care provider for testing and/or treatment. Tell your partners so they can get tested or treated.

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