How do preventive measures such as social distancing affect your sex life, and the treatment of people living with HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases?
1. Let’s re-think the phrase “social distancing”.
This phrase makes people feel detached from society and may make them feel depressed. We want to prevent transmission of the coronavirus and we can do so by being “physically distant” from other people. If we are infected, then we won’t pass it on to other people who might be weaker and will get sick. If we are not infected, we stay physically distant to prevent ourselves from being exposed to the virus.
With physical distance, we can still be socially connected by making a phone call, video call, or through social media. This way we can remain socially and psychologically healthy.
2. Physical distancing can impact people who need continuous HIV treatment.
Because of lockdowns, some people are stuck in different countries where it can be difficult for them to get their medication refilled even though the regimen is available. Developed countries are using the latest medications that are often not available in developing countries. When patients from these countries visit and, due to travel restrictions, get stuck in developing countries where their regimens are not available or the services are limited, or the staff are not HIV or LGBT friendly, this could lead to disruption of continuous HIV care.
If these patients miss their HIV medication for just two weeks, it might allow HIV to develop a mutation which will be resistant to their standard treatment and may lead to treatment failure. That means their standard treatment that has been working for years and years will fail. There will be the need of newer medications. If it’s not available, people can get sick of AIDS again, and AIDS may come back as a consequence of the coronavirus crisis.
3. It can also cause disruption of continuous treatment for other STIs.
There are a number of patients with latent syphilis who need treatment with injection once a week for three consecutive weeks, lockdown and a travel ban means some people will not receive a full course of treatment. An example is Hepatitis C treatment. Nowadays Hepatitis C virus is treated with one pill once a day for 3 months; any disruption in continuous healthcare can decrease the effectiveness of this treatment.
4. Physical distancing can make people lonely.
Even with social distancing measures in place, people may still try to meet up and hook up through dating applications. Humans need bodily contact to feel connected, we are social animals. In these times, we lack contact and try to substitute it through hook-ups. But remember, it is very important to stay physically, mentally and socially healthy during this crisis.
5. It may lead to more people having hook ups.
Physical distancing can make people feel horny. People do not want to be alone. Many are still trying to meet up and hook up even though during this lockdown. In terms of COVID-19, it doesn’t spread through sex but it does spread through the air that you breathe on each other when you have sex.
In terms of STI, if one person is infected with an STI and he doesn’t want to go to the hospital because he doesn’t want to risk being exposed to coronavirus, he may then pass the infection on to other people he has sex with. A lot of bacterial and viral STDs can transmit through kissing, licking, rimming and oral sex.
If you are sexually active, sexual health screening is still important and this is a good time to do so because many of us have never been tested at all and these bacteria and virus do not care if you are at the hospital or at home, which country are you from, or if you sleep with men or women or both.
If you are sexually active, you need to get tested and treated.
6. If you’re not feeling well, consider going to a specialized clinic instead of a hospital.
Lockdowns in some cities make it more difficult for a lot of people to go to their hospitals to refill their medications. With more COVID-19 patients, some general hospitals may also lack general health services because they are needed for COVID-19. If you think you may have an STI, or any non-COVID-19-related illness, consider a specialized clinic instead.