Reader queries

I’m gay, 40 and have more than one casual sexual partner, but I’m close to one of them. Is it necessary to avoid all forms of sexual intimacy to prevent the coronavirus infection? Is it the case even if two men are in a monogamous relationship? After the lockdown is lifted or relaxed partially, when will it be safe to have sex again?
Rajan, Kolkata

Dear Rajan

Coronavirus (COVID-19 virus or SARS-CoV-2) transmission is similar among all intimate relationships, irrespective of the gender of the partners involved. But before we discuss intimacy and the coronavirus, let’s first take a look at the facts about this virus.

The coronavirus primarily affects the respiratory tract of humans. It is transmitted between people through respiratory droplets and contact routes. One way it spreads is through droplets directly from aninfected individual to others during speaking, coughing and sneezing by coming in contact with the other people’s mouth, nose and eyes.

The virus also spreads indirectly when droplets from an infected person come in contact with fomites (objects and surfaces) in the person’s immediate surroundings. If another person touches the same objects or surfaces and then touches their mouth, nose or eyes, they also may become infected.

Most people infected with the coronavirus are asymptomatic during the initial days of infection and start showing any of these symptoms – fever, cough, sore throat, body pains and difficulty in breathing – from the fifth day onwards. Coronavirus transmission happens from an infected person to others during both asymptomatic and symptomatic phases. So, an individual won’t be aware of their coronavirus infection status unless they have a contact history with a coronavirus positive person and / or exhibit symptoms and get tested for the coronavirus at a health facility.

Quote: Having understood the transmission and symptoms of this virus and when to suspect its infection, let’s discuss intimacy. Sexual intimacy in a monogamous relationship or in a situation where you have more than one partner is fine as long as the concerned partners aren’t infected with the coronavirus. But even if one person is infected, any form of intimacy can lead to direct transmission of the virus to the other partner(s).

Having understood the transmission and symptoms of this virus and when to suspect its infection, let’s discuss intimacy. Sexual intimacy in a monogamous relationship or in a situation where you have more than one partner is fine as long as the concerned partners aren’t infected with the coronavirus. But even if one person is infected, any form of intimacy can lead to direct transmission of the virus to the other partner(s).

If both partners who’re in a monogamous relationship are coronavirus negative, maintain social distancing when they go out of home, have limited or no travel during the lockdown, and if there are no coronavirus hotspots in their location / region, intimacy in any form (including sexual intimacy) will be good to go for them. You may have seen articles on condom sales going up during the lockdown, and this is an example of people spending more intimate time together.

If a person has more than one sexual partner, they’ll be coronavirus risk-free only if they and each of their partners don’t have the infection, take the same precautions as people in a monogamous relationship, and haven’t been in touch with anyone infected with the virus.

After the lockdown is lifted, people with multiple partners can have intimacy and safer sex, as long as they haven’t travelled inside coronavirus hotspots and haven’t been in touch with anyone infected.

Please visit the website of the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India to learn more about coronavirus transmission, prevention, treatment and helplines. You can also assess your own risk profile. Please encourage your partners to do the same.

Whatever may be the situation, we all know the importance of consensual sex and also safer sex to protect ourselves against HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. At the same time, let’s continue to protect ourselves from the coronavirus through:

1. Social distancing by at least one metre

2. Immediate handwashing with soap when we bring any product into our home from outside or if we happen to touch any surface while outside home (including gates or elevators)

3. Frequent hand washing through the day – just in case we may have touched infected surfaces inside home (including the entrance)

4. Disinfecting all surfaces inside our home and in the common areas in our neighbourhood with common disinfectants as needed

Please write to us at vartablog@gmail.com if you have further queries. We will have them answered by Dr. A. Sathish Kumar with due respect to your confidentiality – Editor.

Main artwork credit: Rafiquel Haque Dowjah (artwork created with pen ink on art paper)