Living Positive Victoria would like to take this opportunity to have a conversation with you around the issue of casual sexual activity during stage 3 restrictions applied to reduce the potential spread of COVID-19 in Victoria.
We understand the complex issues and the experience of internalised HIV stigma and disease stigma, that can impact on intimacy and our sexual lives and practices. Regardless of how long we might have been living with HIV, we have all experienced the way that HIV has allowed others to direct, advise and even enforce the parameters around our sexual lives.
The bio-medical revolution of the last 5 years has meant some of that stigma and fear has been reduced across some communities allowing us the opportunity to engage in the healthy sexual and reproductive lives which we all so richly deserve.
Living Positive Victoria has always worked towards shifting away from shame and stigma and provide a sex positive and harm reduction framework for people living with HIV.
During this initial response period we are asking our members to consider reducing their sexual contacts as implied by the basic facts around social distancing as being central in a community wide approach and commitment to reduce COVID-19 transmission.
A disproportionate number of individuals within our community remain at high risk of serious health outcomes should coronavirus spread through the Victorian HIV community.
Living Positive Victoria champions the lived experience courage and community lessons learned from that first decade of AIDS in Australia. Many references to that response continue to resonate, but we must also separate COVID-19 and HIV/AIDS. They are not the same, nor are the means of transmission and the action required to mitigate it. If you are triggered and re-living the direct or vicarious trauma from that time, please do not hesitate to reach out to us for support and understanding in the weeks and months ahead. We are here for you.
With COVID-19 stage 3 restrictions in Victoria, there are some important limits on what we can do socially. Below are the current restrictions applied across Victoria:
• shopping for what you need – food and essential supplies
• medical, care or compassionate needs
• exercise in compliance with the public gathering requirements
• work and study if you can’t work or learn remotely
While the government has given advice on public gatherings, they have offered little advice on physical relationships. Partners who live separately have been encouraged to move in together, otherwise they are able to see each other if neither of them shows any symptoms or have not been exposed to a confirmed COVID-19 case.
A lot of organisations, doctors, and governmental authorities are saying to stop having casual hook ups. However, there are a lot of ways one can be sexually active without having to physically be next to someone:
• People can start to explore themselves and their sexualities on their own
• Virtual sex through sexting, swapping photos, and/or phone and video chat
• Reading and/or writing erotica
Abstinence can be very difficult to adhere to, especially for long periods of time. Sex and sexuality play a very big role in having good mental health and it is important to be able to express oneself through one’s sexuality. If, for whatever reason, you find yourself unable to abstain, then please do your best to minimise your risk of exposure to COVID-19. If this poses a challenge for you, contact one of our peer workers who will be able to navigate some options and opportunities that may help you to make the most of this difficult time.
Please keep in mind that these restrictions on our lives have been put in place to prevent spikes in COVID-19 cases. This is so that our healthcare system is able to appropriately deal with the number of people who develop a severe case of COVID-19. It is also to help protect those who are at risk of developing a severe case of COVID-19 which may be fatal to them.
The restrictions are especially important for those of our community who have a compromised immune system. This is currently considered to be anyone with a CD4 count of less than 200. Please remember that all interactions with people, especially those of an intimate nature, involve a risk of transmitting COVID-19. Please keep yourself safe and be mindful to keep others safe by minimising your interactions with other people where possible.