It won’t be forever, but for the time being coronavirus is impacting the ways we live, the ways we work and the ways we connect. And while we’re being urged to minimise all physical contact with each other, some guys might be wondering: what’s the deal with hooking up right now?
It’s not the first time our communities have faced a life-threatening virus. We’ve got nearly 40 years of knowledge, systems and tools to manage HIV and prevent new cases.
We don’t have these to reduce the impact of coronavirus — we have hygiene, distancing and self-isolation instead.
“If you’re about to, or have already stopped having casual sex, this is a commendable way to show you’re doing the right thing.”
How we each choose to act right now won’t just change the course of the coronavirus pandemic — it will determine whether we’re able to look back and feel proud about taking action to minimise the spread of coronavirus, protect our public health systems and save lives.
Doing the right thing
Given the right information and resources, gay and bisexual men consistently demonstrate we’re prepared to take action and do the right thing to protect each other, society and ourselves.
We pioneered the response to the HIV/AIDS crisis in the early 1980s and have continued adopting public health interventions reliant on us changing our behaviour — whether it’s through the kind of sex we have, putting a condom on or using medication regularly.
“How we each choose to act right now won’t just change the course of the coronavirus pandemic — it will determine whether we’re able to look back and feel proud…”
We know from the HIV epidemic that choosing any prevention option works better to control a virus than choosing none at all. While we stay hopeful for a vaccine, it’s best to follow advice from health professionals.
In this new pandemic we face COVID-19 — a potentially fatal respiratory disease caused by a new coronavirus. This is not HIV. And this new threat to our wellbeing can be acquired or passed on with or without sex.
If you’re about to, or have already stopped having casual sex, this is a commendable way to show you’re doing the right thing.
In a recent video update, Thorne Harbour Health called on communities to stop having casual sex. Similarly, ACON also released a statement encouraging people to abstain at this time due to the current circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic.
Recognising the impact on our communities, it’s the first time since being founded almost four decades ago the organisation formerly known as the Victorian AIDS Council and the New South Wales LGBTI health organisation have advised people to stop having casual sex.
HIV doesn’t spread by kissing, touching or having close contact; coronavirus does. Sex itself is not inherently risky, but sex with coronavirus present is.
Not only does this risk apply to anyone hooking up, it extends to every person they come in to close contact with afterwards. Viruses do not discriminate and this new one is highly adept at spreading rapidly.
When it comes to hooking up, there are two things we must realise: that it’s a high risk activity, and it’s a high risk activity that some people are going to want to do anyway.
Our sexual desires don’t just switch off. Conversely, in a crisis they can heighten. A hook-up may promise a precious opportunity for connection and intimacy.
Sexual desires aren’t wrong; they’re human.
Our challenge right now is to do the right thing for society while finding creative ways to express ourselves, enjoy pleasure, look after our mental health and fulfil our emotional wellbeing.
“Sex itself is not inherently risky, but sex with coronavirus present is.”
At Emen8, we don’t aim to tell adults what they should or shouldn’t be doing. Our aim is to equip you with information to empower your own decision making.
Even though there’s uncertainty right now and you might not be able to control the situation around you, you still get to control your actions. And the faster we act to eradicate this virus in Australia, the sooner we’re all going to be back in business again.
So in a time of adapting and learning in the fast lane, we’ve put together some actions that can help you make an informed decision about what’s right for you, right now.
Find the latest information from the Australian Government Department of Health at the Coronavirus (COVID-19) health alert page, including recommendations on how you can help slow the spread of COVID-19 and what to do if you have symptoms.
The more space between you and other people, the harder it is for the virus to spread. This video explains how to do physical distancing correctly.
Coronavirus video – Social Distancing
If you feel unwell — If you think you have symptoms of COVID-19, seek medical advice. To talk with someone about your symptoms, call the National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080. If you have a mask, wear it to protect others. Stay at least 1.5 metres away from other people and cover your coughs or sneezes with your elbow or a single use tissue, and put in the bin immediately after use.
Sex with partners — We recognise that sex with one or more regular partners isn’t the same as casual sex. Whether you live with a regular partner or not, it’s still possible for the virus to spread between you and people you’re in close contact with. Talk and decide together on ways you can keep each other safe. Ending HIV recommend only having sex with one or more partners you currently live with, or with regular partners when you’ve both been practising physical distancing.
Hand washing — If you are going to have sex, wash beforehand. A full body shower is best to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. At minimum, wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before getting intimate. If you’ve travelled to meet someone, wash your hands before touching them or any surfaces.
Sexy alternatives — Anyone who’s masturbated by themselves knows that pleasure doesn’t always rely on someone else being in the room. Thorne Harbour Health suggest focussing on self-pleasure, experimenting with sex toys, phone sex and enjoying cybersex safely. If you’d like to explore sex online, we’ve pulled together some advice on staying safe and within the law.
Notifying others — We’re used to talking about STIs, but we owe it to our partners to disclose our coughs and colds as well. Disclosing any symptoms to anyone you’ve been in close contact with ensures they’re empowered to act quickly and prevent further spread, even if it’s just a cold.
Flu vaccine — There is no vaccine for coronavirus, but there is one for the flu. Getting the flu and COVID-19 at the same time can make you very ill. Ask your doctor about getting a flu shot when it’s available — this is particularly important if you have an existing chronic health condition. With colder months and flu season approaching, it’s ideal to take any precautions you can to help prevent illness, including colds, flu or COVID-19.
Understand how viruses spread — If you or somebody you know is unsure why we’re taking these measures, these visualisations from The Washington Post simulate the spread of a fictitious disease through a population, demonstrating the importance of physical distancing and what happens when we don’t do it.
Think global. Act local
With millions of people already doing the right thing to distance themselves, perhaps now more than ever we’re reminded of how connected we are as a species, the value of each other’s support and kindness, and how our actions can make a difference to our own and other people’s lives.
While the world continues to watch these unusual events unfold, we must remain hopeful and know the power to prevent undue suffering is in our hands; please wash them.