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.

COVID-19: pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding – statements & guidance

Various sources, March 2020

Sex Work & COVID-19: Guidelines for Sex Workers, Clients, Third Parties, and Allies

Butterfly Asian and Migrant Sex Workers Support Network and Maggie’s Toronto Sex Workers Action Project, 2020

The COVID-19 outbreak has created a lot of stress and panic, but sex workers are and always have been resourceful and resilient.  We are experts in keeping ourselves and our communities safe. We’ve been doing it for decades! We would like to share our wisdom and learn from each other on how to overcome this current challenge.

The COVID-19 pandemic has placed many sex workers in a particularly difficult situation. While social distancing is strongly advised, it is particularly challenging for contact sex workers (full service workers, strippers, massage workers, professional dominants, etc), queer and trans sex workers, Black and Indigenous People of Colour (BIPOC) workers at the margins, and otherwise low-income workers to adhere to these
recommendations. We recognize that many sex workers will need to go about their
business as usual. That is the reality of surviving in a capitalist society while enduring
criminalization and stigmatization.

This document follows a harm reduction approach, offering guidelines from various sources to help lower the risk of contact and transmission to those who must continue in-person sex working.

Knowing that each sex worker’s work is unique, we encourage each of our community members to know how transmission occurs, how that fits with your individual work, and what decisions can be made for your specific situation to reduce as many risks as possible for yourself and others.

We have also included guidelines for clients, third parties, allies, and healthcare providers on how to best support sex workers during this time.

COVID-19: A Gender Lens – sexual & reproductive health and gender inequality

UN Population Fund (UNFPA), March 2020

Disease outbreaks affect women and men differently, and pandemics make existing inequalities for women and girls and discrimination of other marginalized groups such as persons with disabilities and those in extreme poverty, worse. This needs to be considered, given the different impacts surrounding detection and access to treatment for women and men.

Women represent 70 percent of the health and social sector workforce globally and special attention should be given to how their work environment may expose them to discrimination, as well as thinking about their sexual and reproductive health and psychosocial needs as frontline health workers

New resource: LGBTI R U OK? Conversation Guide

National LGBTI Health Alliance and R U OK?,  February 2020

“Life can be challenging, and we all need support during times of grief, loss, relationship breakdown and when we’re under work or financial pressure. On top of this, LGBTI people might be subject to prejudice, stigma, discrimination, harassment, and violence.” 

National LGBTI Health Alliance has collaborated with R U OK? to produce this LGBTI guide which was released just in time for the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

New Videos for Clinicians – Syphilis: Symptoms, Serology, and Treatment

SHINE SA, 14/02/2020

SHINE SA have released two new short videos that provide advice for clinicians on syphilis symptoms and treatment. This resource expands on our syphilis overview for clinicians. 

The videos are presented by Sexual Health Physician Dr Carole Khaw, and cover the topics of signs, symptoms and stages as well as serology and treatment.

With an increase in syphilis cases in South Australia it is important that health professionals understand how to identify and treat syphilis.

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