As mentioned in our previous blog, Willingness has opened its facebook chat to the public, in support of the community, during the difficult situation that Malta is facing since the Coronavirus reached our shores.
Our professionals are responding to different queries, including Dr Donia Gamoudi, who is taking care of responding to questions relating to Sex and HIV in relation to COVID-19. We have contacted Dr Gamoudi and compiled a list of frequently asked questions so that we can support the community with such information.
- Can I get COVID-19 through kissing?
COVID-19 is a new virus that we are still learning about. What we know so far is that COVID-19 is present in respiratory secretions. Because these secretions from an infected person can carry the virus, it’s discouraged that people greet one another with a cheek kiss or a handshake. Kissing a partner is of course far more intimate than a peck on the cheek.
- Can I get COVID-19 through sex?
Because of the close proximity kissing someone or having sex with someone who has COVID-19, you are then potentially at risk.
- Would a condom help?
At the present time we don’t know if the Coronavirus is present in other bodily fluids like vaginal secretions or semen. If you are concerned, avoid getting physically close to a partner who is showing signs of the Coronavirus which include coughing, fever and/ or shortness of breath. We know that the risk of transmission is highest when there are symptoms.
- Should I stop having sex?
If you are worried that a partner could have come in contact with COVID-19 but not showing signs, it’s best to postpone any sexual activity until you know your health status. A condom won’t prevent you from getting in close contact with your sexual partner and potentially getting infected.
- Do I need to take extra precautions if I am HIV positive?
Although we know that people with weaker immune system or other chronic conditions are at increased rates of complications from COVID-19, at the moment there is no evidence that people living with HIV are at increased risk of COVID-19 or worsened infection compared to HIV negative people especially if the CD4 count (a surrogate marker of immunity) is over 500.
The main mortality risk factors to date are older age and co-morbidities including renal disease and diabetes. If we do discover that there is a greater risk for people living with HIV, it would be likely to primarily affect those with weaker immune systems (CD4 count lower than 350). The lower a person’s CD4 count is, the risk is likely to increase, so it makes sense to follow general advice on avoiding infections.
Dr Gamoudi ended with some key advice to limit the spread of coronavirus:
- Good hand hygiene – washing hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water
- Covering nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing into tissues or a flexed elbow
- Disposing of tissues properly
- Using alcohol based sanitisers
- Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces
- Social distancing
- Avoiding large public gatherings if they are not essential
- Avoid travelling
Dr Donia Gamoudi is a Genito-urinary specialist specialising in Sexual Health and HIV. Dr Gamoudi is a specialist in Sex Clinic Malta, offering support and treatment with STIs, HIV and PrEP, as well as blood testing and hormone profiling.