Boston, MA – A viewpoint published in Annals of Internal Medicine urges clinicians to counsel patients about their sexual health and well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic and offers practical advice that can be shared in brief conversations and referrals to relevant resources. “More than 200,000 people have died of COVID-19, which has led to widespread concern about the ease with which the coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, is transmitted from one person to another,” said Dr. Jack Turban, resident physician in psychiatry at The Massachusetts General Hospital and McLean Hospital and lead author of the viewpoint.

            The coronavirus is readily transmitted when someone either breathes in respiratory droplets containing the virus that have been emitted when an infected person talks, coughs, or sneezes, or when someone touches a surface contaminated with such respiratory droplets and then touches their face.  “This has resulted in broad guidance recommending that people avoid coming within six feet of each other. There has been a great deal of advice on how to avoid transmitting the coronavirus by wearing a face mask, frequently washing hands, and practicing good hygiene,” Turban added. “But the sexual health implications of these recommendations have received little attention, even though it appears that all forms of in-person sexual contact carry risk for transmission of the virus.” Infected individuals may potentially spread respiratory secretions onto their skin or their personal objects, including sex toys, from which the coronavirus can be transmitted to a sexual partner.

            “Abstinence is the lowest-risk approach to sexual health during the pandemic,” said Dr. Alex Keuroghlian, a co-author of the viewpoint who directs the National LGBT Health Education Center at The Fenway Institute and the Massachusetts General Hospital Psychiatry Gender Identity Program. “But given the well-documented failures of abstinence-based public health interventions, this advice alone is unlikely to be successful for all patients. Clinicians are advised to offer sex-positive advice across the spectrum of risk. These range from activities with a low risk of infection, such as masturbation, having sex with a partner with whom you are self-quarantining, or having sex via digital platforms such as video chat. Patients who use digital tools for sex should be counseled to use secure encrypted platforms and be warned about the risks for sexual partners taking screenshots and the relevant risk of sexual extortion. Those engaging in higher risk activities, such as having sex with people whom you are not self-quarantining, should be counseled on ways to reduce the risk of transmission by wearing a mask and showering both before and after having sex. The viewpoint, titled “Sexual Health in the SARS-CoV-2 Era” was published by the Annals of Internal Medicine. It is available free online at (Bay Widows at