We’re living in extraordinary times, which means all aspects of our lives are being impacted and this must now include the kind of sex we have.

While not hooking up for sex is implicit in the government’s strict guidance on social distancing and not seeing anyone outside your immediate household, we at Terrence Higgins Trust want to make it completely explicit.

So, loud enough for those at the back to hear, let me state clearly and succinctly: do not hook-up during the COVID-19 lockdown.

I never thought I would be in the situation where I’d be proactively pushing a message of abstinence, but these are extraordinary times. This isn’t about protecting your sexual health – it’s about protecting your general health and those around you. Staying at home and not interacting with people other than those we live with is currently our best defence against this deadly virus. 

Turning to sex for pleasure, intimacy or to relieve stress is only natural and as a sex positive organisation we want people to enjoy their sex lives. However, unless you have sex with someone within your household, having sex now risks prolonging and worsening this pandemic. 

That’s why we need to find alternative ways to achieve sexual pleasure and satisfaction.

While there’s no evidence that coronavirus can be passed on through sexual contact, it is spread through close physical contact, which includes kissing. The virus has also been found in the faeces of people who are infected so rimming may also be a risk for infection. 

Dr Michael Brady, medical director of Terrence Higgins Trust

Unfortunately, even washing your hands and not kissing someone during sex isn’t enough to stop the virus. It’s estimated that as many as one in three people will have no symptoms of coronavirus when they are infected so it’s vital everyone now acts responsibly. 

To put it bluntly, right now you are your safest sexual partner. No one should be leaving their home unless for the reasons outlined by the government. But it’s not all bad news and this doesn’t mean you can’t be creative about how you manage your sex life. 

For decades, LGBT people have been some of the most creative when it comes to alternative ways of having sex. During times when it simply wasn’t possible to meet someone, whether that be fear of being outed or being stuck in a small village, there’s always been different ways to get sexual pleasure. 

Phone sex is seeing a resurgence and with smart phones you don’t even have to imagine what someone looks like at the end of the line – just make sure you stay safe, don’t do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable and be aware that images that might identify you – such as your face –  might be viewed by others or recorded.

There’s no risk of contracting the virus through masturbation and if you’re using sex toys just make sure wash them for at least 20 seconds with soap and water. 

Many people will choose to stop taking PrEP during the lockdown, unless there’s a specific need – for example if you are living with a sexual partner with a detectable HIV viral load. It’s important to make sure you stop and re-start PrEP in a safe way and how to do this is different for different people. You can more information by Terrence Higgins Trust, PrEP Lead, Greg Owen, here.

As everyone is now stuck at home, it’s understandable some people will want to turn to hook-up apps. These apps can be a way of staying connected virtually and have been great sources of information to sign-post people to mental health and wellbeing support. But when it comes to sex, our advice couldn’t be clearer: you shouldn’t be hooking-up right now. 

Staff across the NHS are now being shifted to work on the frontline of the coronavirus response so sexual health clinics are reducing face-to-face appointments and only seeing the most urgent cases. If you do need to get tested you can request a home sampling kit to test at home if that service is available near you. Rest assured that if you need any treatment, you will still be able to access this and support will continue to be available for emergency cases. Check out your local sexual health clinic website for more information.

I’ve seen first-hand the amazing work that’s happening right now across our NHS; we’re all working incredibly hard to keep you safe. Now we need to ask you to do the same for yourselves and for us. By playing your part you’re helping to slow the progression of the virus, to reduce the pressure on the NHS and to free up staff to care for those infected. 

Remember this isn’t forever, but if everyone plays their part we can get back to normal even sooner.

Terrence Higgins Trust has the latest information and advice on keeping safe during COVID-19.

THT Direct is also open every weekday on 0808 802 1221.