Thorne Harbour Health calls for community to stop having casual sex during COVID-19

Thorne Harbour Health – media release, 26 March 2020

For the first time in its four-decade history, Thorne Harbour Health is calling on communities to stop having casual sex in the face of 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Thorne Harbour Health, formerly the Victorian AIDS Council, is calling on LGBTI communities and people living with HIV to limit their risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Thorne Harbour Health CEO Simon Ruth said, “We’re faced by an unprecedented global health crisis. While COVID-19 is not a sexually transmitted infection, the close personal contact we have when during sex poses a serious risk of COVID-19 transmission. We need people to stop having casual sex at this stage.”

“But after four decades of sexual health promotion, we know abstinence isn’t a realistic strategy for most people. We need to look at ways we can minimise risk while maintain a healthy sex life.”

Last week, the organisation released an info sheet with strategies to minimise the risk of COVID-19 while having sex. Strategies included utilising sex tech, solo sexuality, and limiting your sexual activity to an exclusive sexual partner, commonly known as a ‘f*ck buddy’.

“You can reduce your risk by making your sexual network smaller. If you have a regular sexual partner, have a conversation about the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Provided both of you are limiting your risk by working from home and exercising physical distancing from others, you can greatly reduce you chance of COVID-19 transmission,” said Simon Ruth.

The organisation’s stance is not dissimilar from advice from the UK government. Earlier this week, chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries advised couples not cohabitating to consider testing their relationship by moving in together during the country’s lockdown.

Thorne Harbour Health CEO Simon Ruth released a video message today addressing sex & COVID-19 following last week’s message about physical distancing.

Kissing may be an important and neglected risk factor for oropharyngeal gonorrhoea

Kissing may be an important and neglected risk factor for oropharyngeal gonorrhoea: a cross-sectional study in men who have sex with men

Chow EPFCornelisse VJWilliamson DA, et al

Abstract:

Objectives A mathematical model suggested that a significant proportion of oropharyngeal gonorrhoea cases are acquired via oropharynx-to-oropharynx transmission (ie, tongue-kissing), but to date, no empirical study has investigated this. This study aimed to examine the association between kissing and oropharyngeal gonorrhoea among gay and bisexual men who have sex with men (MSM).

Methods MSM attending a public sexual health centre in Melbourne, Australia, between March 2016 and February 2017 were invited to participate in a brief survey that collected data on their number of male partners in the last 3 months, in three distinct categories: kissing-only (ie, no sex including no oral and/or anal sex), sex-only (ie, any sex without kissing), and kissing-with-sex (ie, kissing with any sex). Univariable and multivariable logistic regression analyses were performed to examine associations between oropharyngeal gonorrhoea positivity by nucleic acid amplification tests and the three distinct partner categories.

Results A total of 3677 men completed the survey and were tested for oropharyngeal gonorrhoea. Their median age was 30 (IQR 25–37) and 6.2% (n=229) had oropharyngeal gonorrhoea. Men had a mean number of 4.3 kissing-only, 1.4 sex-only, and 5.0 kissing-with-sex partners in the last 3 months. Kissing-only and kissing-with-sex were associated with oropharyngeal gonorrhoea, but sex-only was not. The adjusted odds for having oropharyngeal gonorrhoea were 1.46-fold (95% CI 1.04 to 2.06) for men with ≥4 kissing-only partners and 1.81-fold (95% CI 1.17 to 2.79) for men with ≥4 kissing-with-sex partners.

Conclusions These data suggest that kissing may be associated with transmission of oropharyngeal gonorrhoea in MSM, irrespective of whether sex also occurs.

Experts debate whether kissing is to blame for gonorrhoea spread

Sydney Morning Herald, July 18, 2019 — 2.00am

The long-held position of sexual health experts is that gonorrhoea is transmitted by the penis, but an Australian researcher is studying the possibility the infection can be spread by kissing.

At the STI and HIV World Conference in Vancouver on Thursday, Professor Kit Fairley from Monash University will be arguing his case in a debate with Professor Emeritus H. Hunter Handsfield from the University of Washington.

Can you get gonorrhoea from kissing?

ABC Radio (Hack), 8th November 2017

In a troubling development, Melbourne researchers suspect gonorrhoea is being spread by kissing, overturning years of conventional wisdom.

Although it’s early days and not cause for alarm, there is evidence to suggest ‘throat-to-throat transmission’ may be driving the spread of gonorrhea in inner-city Australia.

It’s been generally understood you could only get gonorrhea by having vaginal, anal or oral sex with someone who has gonorrhea. Dr Vincent J Cornelisse, a sexual health physician and PhD candidate at Monash University, has been conducting research that challenges this idea.

Professor Basil Donovan, head of the Sexual Health Program at the Kirby Institute, told Hack the finding was “highly tenuous”. “You’ll need a lot more science before you put out a warning,” he said.

 

Know your chances of contracting an STI

British Columbia Centre for Disease Control, Canada

A common question people have is “What are my chances of getting an STI?”  While there is no simple answer, the charts below give an estimate of your chances, when your partner has that sexually transmitted infection (STI). These charts are based on research where possible, and have been reviewed by STI experts in British Columbia. 

These charts don’t cover every situation or every STI.

For example, for HIV the charts do not address the fact that risk of transmission is even lower if your partner is on treatment for HIV and has undetectable viral load.

Here’s what the different chances mean in the charts:

  • Not passed (or possible only in theory): There is no possibility for passing the infection or it is theoretically possible, but there is no evidence that this happens.
  • Not commonly passed: This is not a common way to pass the infection but it may be possible with the right conditions (e.g., if condom breaks).
  • Can be passed:  The infection can be passed this way with the right conditions (for example, from skin which is not covered by a condom or barrier).
  • Easily passed: The infection is easily passed this way.

Links to charts:

Study Shows Men Can Get Oral HPV Infection From Women

HealthDay, Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Men are at increased risk for oral human papillomavirus (HPV) infection if their female sex partners have oral and/or genital HPV infections, a new study shows.

Read more here