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Home  Health Information Gay Men Covid-Sex

COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving scenario, the information below may change at a moment’s notice. Please continue to check in with this resource for updates. For the most up to date news regarding COVID-19, please visit the official website of the Government of Ontario. 

 

Our history as a community of gay, bi, and queer men, including trans guys, has always relied upon connection and mobilization to cope and combat against homophobia, the HIV epidemic, and institutional discrimination. As a result of physical distancing measures, some gay men may now experience increased feelings of loneliness and isolation. These are feelings that many guys living with HIV already experience and may now worsen because of COVID-19.

ACT has worked in sexual health long enough (37 years) to know that as time stretches on it will be increasingly more difficult to ignore the need to feel desired, experience physical pleasure, or be loved. While it is not our recommendation to leave your homes or meet with people outside your homes for sex, we would be negligent if we didn’t acknowledge that this will happen for some members of our community. If you do decide to engage in sex with someone, be risk-aware, informed and make every attempt to reduce potential harm. 

It is the recommendation of The Public Health Agency of Canada to stay home and avoid contact with people outside your residence. Furthermore, in some instances, meeting up with others could lead to legal action against you including fines or imprisonment. This applies to everyone; we know that COVID-19 will not discriminate. We invite you to think of those that may be at a greater risk of complications: the people that will encounter you on transit, in public spaces, sharing elevators, and handrails. Not everyone has the luxury to stay home but by staying home we can all contribute to a healthier community during this unprecedented time. For further information, check out the Government of Canada’s social distancing guidelines.

ACT has developed the following list of FAQ responses based on questions we are receiving from guys in our community.

We'd love to hear your feedback and questions about our Gay Guys, Sex PnP, and COVID-19 resources.

 Feedback

What if I Just Want to Fuck?!
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There is no safe way to meet up for sex without some risk of transmitting or acquiring COVID-19. While there is no evidence COVID-19 can be spread through anal or frontal hole sex, we do know the virus is spread through respiratory droplets. Droplets can be exchanged through coughing, sneezing or kissing and potentially through other activities such as talking, rimming, and even breathing. Some people also appear to be able to spread the virus even when they do not experience any symptoms. 

The virus that causes COVID-19 can live on surfaces for hours or days. Touching something with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands can lead to acquiring COVID-19. Person-to-person spread is efficient when there is close contact. When engaging in sex try...   

  • Requiring your partner to thoroughly wash their hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer before contact.
  • Hooking up with a consensual partner or partners that you are already isolating with.
  • Minimizing the number of sexual partners you have to decrease risk.  
  • Washing any sex toys that are used, both before and after sex as well as between partners.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth as much as possible. 
  • Ask potential partners how they’re feeling; if they feel unwell, avoid sex. 
  • Do not hook up with people who have recently travelled. Folks who have recently traveled are considered very high risk and are legally required to self-quarantine. Failure to comply with a quarantine order may result in legal action, imprisonment or fines.
  • If you’re planning on hosting a sex party know that as per Stage 2 guidelines, gatherings of more than 10 people at a time are legally prohibited in Ontario. 
  • If you do choose to meet up with someone, be prepared for the possibility that you may unknowingly get or give COVID-19 to others. Plan for a possible 14-day quarantine and ensure you are prepared (food, medications, etc.)
  • If you are experiencing symptoms (dry cough, fever, headache, sneezing, muscle aches), be prepared to let those whom you have recently hooked up with know so that they can self-quarantine. 

 Go Fuck Yourself

 

Ideas for Practicing Physical Distancing & Sex
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There are all kinds of ways of experiencing sexual pleasure and intimacy that are not dependent on the physical touch of a partner. Try... 

  • Texting explicit photos.  
  • Sending provocative text messages.  
  • Delivering a sexual voice message. 
  • Choosing phone sex. 
  • Filming a seductive video of yourself and sending it to your partner.
  • Writing erotic stories and snail-mailing them.
  • Incorporating an internet connected/wireless sex toy where your partner can control the intensity of the toy. 
  • Or just be intimate with yourself. Try exploring your erogenous zones or seeing how long you can edge before cumming. 

The possibilities are endless. You just need to get creative! 

Ring My Bell

 

HIV & COVID-19
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You may be concerned about the risk of HIV alongside COVID-19 or are already living with HIV and wondering how COVID-19 affects you. HIV symptoms may mimic common symptoms of the flu as well as COVID-19. There is no way to know for certain without getting tested.

Access to HIV testing may be limited during this time. HIV testing is still being done at the Village Pharmacy.   

  • If you are feeling unwell, get tested to check if you have COVID-19.
  • Seroconversion with HIV does not include sneezing or coughing, while COVID-19 infection commonly does include these symptoms. Common symptoms of a new HIV infection can be body aches, sore throat, and malaise (a general feeling of being unwell).
  • Continue to ensure you have an adequate supply of HIV medications or PrEP and that you take the medication as prescribed. Pharmacies may limit prescriptions to a single 30-day refill.
  • Choose a pharmacy that offers mailing/delivery of prescriptions to your home.
  • If you are living with HIV with a suppressed viral load (you are undetectable) and a healthy CD4 count, there is no research to indicate that you are at a greater risk of complications due to COVID-19. Check out CATIE for more information.
  • If you have a viral load over 200 (a detectable viral load) or are not on HIV medications, you should follow social distancing guidelines rigorously.

  

I am Having Trouble Coping with Social Isolation
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  • Develop a routine for yourself that includes important self-care elements.
  • Call loved ones, go on virtual (webcam) parties, do something kind for another person, or play board games online (like chess or scrabble).   
  • Reduce your exposure to the news media. Checking once a day for important updates is enough. 
  • Be kind and patient with yourself. Adjusting to these changes will take time.  
  • Consider spending time each day to create gratitude lists. Think about all the things you are grateful for (eg., having food today, being cared from by someone I love, having safety) and list them. Gratitude can be a strategy to support us with gloom or heavy emotions.   
  • Smartphone Apps like Healthy Minds and Calm can be useful tools to manage anxiety.  
  • Avoid panic buying supplies! Take only what you need. While empty shelves may cause instinctive anxiety, this is simply due to a surge in demand. There is no shortage in food or supplies. Grocers and suppliers are working overtime to get items on shelves faster.
  • Buying only what you need will also leave items for vulnerable populations, parents, etc., who might not be able to get what they need when they go out if shelves are empty.   
What if I really want to party? (PnP & Harm Reduction)
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For some guys, partying is a way of connecting with other guys, and some guys may be experiencing loneliness now more than ever due to self isolation and physical distancing. Here are some strategies to keep in mind to reduce risk when using substances and partying:

Drugs and Gear 

  • Wash hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds after handling money, drugs, or after contact with other people.
  • Do not share gear or handle someone else’s gear (cookers, syringe, water, pipes, lighters). COVID-19 is spread through respiratory droplets, so avoid sharing bongs, pipes, joints, nasal sprays, straws, and drinks. Continue to avoid sharing needles and straws to prevent HIV and Hep C transmission as well.  
  • If you are using with someone else, try to maintain physical distancing and to prepare and handle your own equipment and drugs. Avoid having other people touch your drugs/equipment.
  • Stock up on harm reduction supplies in bulk to reduce the amount of time you need to be in community. Try to get enough supplies to last you 3-4 weeks, or even longer if you are a member of a vulnerable* population for COVID-19. Supplies can be obtained here.
  • If you have access to your drug supply during quarantine, try stocking up on your drug of choice before the pandemic gets worse.  
  • Avoid binging and ensure that you take time to plan out how you will use your drugs. If you anticipate running out of supply, starting with a normal dose and then eventually tapering off will be a useful strategy at this time.  
  • If your supplier gets sick, or is showing symptoms of COVID-19, have back-up plans to ensure you have the things you need, (eg. nutritional foods and drinks to manage an involuntary detox.) 
  • If you need to carry drugs in your mouth, anus, or internal genitals make sure you clean and sanitize their packaging/baggies with an alcohol or soap-based cleanser before and after removing them. If you carry them in your mouth, use an antiseptic mouthwash after. 

*Remember that guys with weakened immune systems, lung disease and other pre-existing conditions are more at risk for complications of COVID-19. Using drugs can also affect our immune system and make you at risk for complications of COVID-19. Care for your health as best as you can. Follow these and other risk reduction tips to help you reach this goal. 

Wash Your Gear

 

Shifting Substance Use during COVID-19
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For guys who party and are not able to access their drug supplies during quarantine, managing the physical, emotional and/or mental consequences of being disconnected from your supply can be a challenge. Here are some tips and tools that might help...  

  • Check in with yourself and your goals around drug use. Perhaps you have been meaning to take a break from substances? This quarantine might align with those goals. For others, discontinuing use may be an undesirable outcome, but it is still important to have strategies to navigate cravings and withdrawal in safe ways.
  • Check out our resource: Staying off Crystal for some additional strategies 
  • If you’re interested in additional support, e-mail gbejaimal@actoronto.ca for harm reduction support from our staff and/or volunteers. 
  • Our Spunk! Support group will be held online this Spring. Check out more information at actoronto.org/spunk. It is a closed group, so register by April 20th if you want to make positive changes around substance use during self-isolation.  
  • Check out our Meth & Sex Group as well on the website.

 Party & Play

Managing Triggers & Cravings
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Being disconnected physically from others can be difficult, and it may trigger some of us to want to use. If we are unable to use during these times of physical distancing, here are some examples of strategies we can use to help us move through our cravings.  

  • Call a friend, sponsor or someone from your support system.
  • Write in a Journal, can be a useful tool to help us identify our reactions, feelings, thoughts, and goals. When we are feeling anxious, writing our thoughts down can help us identify and neutralize negative thoughts. It can also help be a tool to track our progress and acknowledge when we are doing well.
  • Exercise, can be a way to channel our energy & distract ourselves.  
  • Do some of your favourite things (cooking a special meal, listening to your favourite music, watching one of your favourite movies). 
  • Turn off pornography if you find it triggering.
  • Masturbation can be a tool to curb strong sexual feelings if you’re feeling like hooking up.
  • Take a hot shower to relax your body and take a break from stress.  
  • Do chores around the house.
  • Go for a walk or run to offer yourself a change in scenery and a breath of fresh air.

For additional tools to support yourself in managing triggers, check out this excellent UK resource by Sexual Health Worker David Stuart on PnP (chemsex) and triggers.

 Treat Yourself

Managing Withdrawal
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Because of physical distancing and quarantine, it’s anticipated that some people will experience involuntary withdrawal. Typically, the first five days are the worst. Here are some strategies to cope with withdrawal... 

  • Exercise can help support positive feelings by releasing endorphins and regulating sleep, stress and anxiety.
  • Eat healthy as diet is incredibly important for overall mood. 
  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day.
  • Try herbal teas and nutritional drinks (ie. smoothies, Ensure, etc.).
  • Sleep in as much as you want.
  • Portion your remaining supply over the duration of your use and try not binging all at once.

Doctors and professional practices are also medically obliged to support you with withdrawal symptoms. Connect with your doctor about your use if you feel safe to do so. You can also connect with friends and fellow partiers to get tips and support, or you can access the following services in Toronto.

 

Overdose Prevention
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This is an important time to be extra cautious about overdose prevention because our healthcare systems may become less reliable if the pandemic gets worse. If you must use alone, let a friend or someone you trust know that you’re using. Let them know your location and make plans to check-in with each other to help ensure your safety.

You can also hang out with your friend virtually while you use, so if you overdose or lose consciousness, they’ll be able call for help. You can also call the Overdose Prevention Hotline at 1-888-853-8542 and someone will stay on the line with you while you use to make sure you’re safe. 

To help prevent overdoses, remember to start low and go slow, and avoid mixing. Be careful of your tolerance, as it may reduce after long periods of not using.

 

COVID-19 Reopening Phases
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The province of Ontario is taking a multi-step and phased reopening to businesses and services during COVID-19. The phases apply to specific geographic regions rather than the entire province at large. As of Friday, July 3, 2020 Toronto has entered Stage 2 of the reopening plan. Social distancing and other protective measures such as mask wearing will remain in effect for all phases until further notice. For a brief overview of the existing and scheduled phases please read below.

Phase 1 - The first stage of reopening focuses on businesses that are in a good position to reopen and have the space to maintain physical distancing. Please visit https://www.ontario.ca/page/reopening-ontario-whats-each-stage#section-1 for a full list of what reopened during phase 1.

Phase 2 – In phase 2, restrictions are further relaxed, and public gatherings are increased to a maximum of 10 people. Notably, establishments providing personal care services can open with the proper health and safety protocols in place (e.g. barbers and hair salons.) and restaurants with outdoor dining spaces can resume operation. For a full list of what reopened during phase 2, please visit https://www.ontario.ca/page/reopening-ontario-whats-each-stage#section-2.

Phase 3 – Phase 3 will involve gradually opening most other workplaces and community spaces not covered in Phases 1 and 2. The province has not yet published any guidelines or a list of businesses and services scheduled to resume with phase 3. Additionally, a specific timeline for phase 3 has not been published. The province has indicated however that  large gatherings will continue to be restricted and social distancing rules will remain in effect along with any other orders issues by public health. 

Sex Work
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Some cis or trans, gay, bi, or queer sex workers will encounter challenges while working during the COVID-19 pandemic. Meeting clients in person may expose workers to risks. Here are some harm reduction strategies to support with managing workplace risks during COVID-19. 

 

Before a Date:

Have a screening process for clients to ask them about their symptoms, contact with other individuals who have symptoms, or their travel history. 

If they have symptoms, reassure them in two weeks or if they get tested you can meet. 

Only meet with clients who have been tested. 

Suggest that clients must wash their hands and face before meeting them. Encourage them to shower shortly before their appointment. 

Disinfect work surfaces with disinfecting wipes, sprays, soap and water, alcohol, or hydrogen peroxide. 

Minimize all non-essential international travel.

Check out these guidelines created for sex workers in B.C! http://www.bccdc.ca/Health-Info-Site/Documents/COVID19_SexWorkersGuidance.pdf

 

During a Date:

Try web-based, phone-based, or text-based services instead of in-person sex work.

Erotic massage, strip tease instead of kissing, mouth on skin contact, or putting objects (including fingers) in mouth after touching client. 

Minimize face-to-face content with specific sexual positions (doggy style, reverse cowgirl)

Continue to use condoms, dental dams, gloves and/or a mask. 

Check out this resource developed by the Butterfly Asian and Migrant Sex Workers Support Network and Maggie's Toronto Sex Workers Action Project for aditional guidelines. https://www.drugpolicy.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/03.19.20-Sex-Work-and-COVID-19-2.pdf 

 

After a Date: 

Disinfect all surfaces, wash and dry towels, and bedsheets. 

Set-up an e-transfer to avoid handling money directly. 

Canadian cash bills are virtually water-proof so consider washing your bills if you need to disinfect them. 

Additional Resources
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The HIV/AIDS Legal Clinic of Ontario (HALCO) is a community-based legal clinic that provides free legal services for people living with HIV/AIDS in Ontario. You can visit their COVID-19 resource page here or reach out to them through their website to speak to a lawyer to help clarify local laws in regards to sex, drugs and COVID-19.  

http://maxottawa.ca/health-and-covid-19/

https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/doh/downloads/pdf/imm/covid-sex-guidance.pdf

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/03/there-isnt-going-be-all-clear-signal/608512/?fbclid=IwAR2V9H-Kwue7LdfgJ2UkAdkOx-LOMXwDHHURZSnm85SoaXLxA-SZq-h8HxU

https://mpactglobal.org/sex-can-still-be-sexy-in-the-time-of-covid-19/ 


Original pin-up art commissioned from Toronto tattoo artist and illustrator Billy Bluw. Visit him on Instagram @billybluw.tattoo or e-mail him at billybluwtattoo@gmail.com for professional inquiries.