The Digital Sexual Health Initiative (DiSHI) describes themselves as “a group of researchers, program leaders, and policy-makers that have been working together since 2009 on studies about the individual, system and population impact of online and other digital public health interventions[.]” (DiSHI, 2020).
DiSHI has shared a new resource – a report sharing preliminary results from a survey of 1198 people conducted over two weeks in the summer of 2020. This new report explores the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on sex and access to sexual health services for British Columbians. The report also explores whether “alternate ways of delivering sexual health services during the COVID-19 pandemic would be acceptable” (DiSHI, 2020). A summary fact sheet is also available.
Some statistics that stood out to us: 58% of participants had no partners or one partner since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. The report notes that “only 31% of participants said they lived with their sex partner(s)”, concluding that most partners were not within the household of participants. As well, the report notes that 31% of participants reported a decrease in the number of their sexual partners, while 40% reported no change in the number. Additionally, a large majority of participants (91%) reported that they were using strategies to reduce the risk of being passed COVID-19 during sex. Some examples of risk reduction strategies utilized include 53% reporting “masturbation”, 44% “not having sex”, and 16% “having online or virtual sex”.
The report shares that one key finding was that 66% of participants reported “avoiding or delaying seeking sexual health services during the pandemic”, with the most common reason for this being as a result of public health messaging to “avoid seeking non-urgent care”. Other key findings include that “the most appealing new options for accessing sexual health services were receiving self-collection kits for testing, receiving test kits or antibiotics at home in plain packaging, and express testing”.
This report is useful for helping to gain insights and perspectives into sexual health, behaviours, and service access during the midst of COVID-19. We have just skimmed the surface of this in-depth, fascinating report and encourage you to check it out, as well as the DiSHI website to learn more!