What’s your sex life since lockdown been like? Social distancing has had a huge impact on all aspects of our daily living, including our sex lives for many of us.

Sex with a long-term sex partner at home may be the safest way to reduce the risk of getting COVID, but this is not an option or preferred choice for everyone. A new sex partner can, however, come with another risk – the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Last year, more than 460,000 STIs were diagnosed in England, and gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men are more likely to be diagnosed with an STI than other men. The highest rates of STIs are diagnosed among people who identify as Black Caribbean or Black non-African, non-Caribbean. Between 2018 and 2019, the largest increase in new STI diagnoses was among people of Asian ethnicity, especially gonorrhoea and chlamydia.

The good news is that testing for STIs is free, confidential and simple, and treatment is highly effective. But getting a routine STI check-up during the COVID-19 pandemic may be difficult, as sexual health services have had to prioritise seeing people with symptoms or specific needs.

Sex life survey banner

Surveys about people’s sex lives and access to testing during the COVID-19 pandemic can help build up a picture of what people need from services. So these surveys must be representative of everyone who may want to use these services, and particularly important for the voices and experiences of key groups, including Black men and transwomen, to be heard.

Researchers at University College London (UCL) and Public Health England are doing the second in a series of surveys – the ‘Your sex life since lockdown’ survey. The first survey (in summer 2020) found that three-quarters of participants identified as white, cisgender gay men, so we don’t know if the results are representative of all gay and bisexual men. That’s where we hope you can help – to ensure that the voices of Black gay and bisexual people are heard.

How's your sex life since lockdown?
Is your sex life since lockdown still banging?

The results of the first survey showed that just over one-third of participants had more than one new sex partner since the first national lockdown on 23 March 2020. There was a big difference in how people tested for HIV before and after lockdown. About two-thirds of people who tested shortly before lockdown got tested at a sexual health clinic, whereas after lockdown, two-thirds of people tested using a free online self-sampling service.

Professor Cath Mercer from UCL says, “We need information about the impact of COVID-19 on sexual behaviour, sexual health service use and needs. It is vital to include as many people as possible from a broad range of backgrounds to improve services, and help reduce inequalities and risks to health now and in the future.”

So, please take the Your Sex Life Since Lockdown Survey today, and consider sharing it with friends and on social media.

It’s a voluntary, confidential, anonymous online survey about STIs, use of sexual health clinics and sexual behaviour before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey is open to anyone over the age of 15-years old, who identifies as a man or assigned male gender at birth, who has sex with men and lives in the UK. It takes about 10 minutes to complete. You can also help recruit friends by copying and sharing the link on your social media.

If you have any questions or comments, then please get in touch with [email protected]. You can follow the research and keep up-to-date @HPRU_BBSTI on Twitter. Or check out the website at National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) for more valuable research from the team.

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