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B.C. research reveals how pandemic has changed attitudes towards sex, health services

CDC survey shows that 35 per cent of people were worried about being judged

It’s been nearly a year since provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry told British Columbians that it was “not the time to do rapid serial dating.”

But did British Columbians listen?

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control (CDC) released a survey Wednesday (March 3) titled “Sex in the time of COVID-19,” which looked at how people’s personal lives changed as a result of the pandemic. The survey was conducted from July 21 to Aug. 4, and recruited from the CDC’s West 12th Avenue sexual health clinic and through GetCheckedOnline.com, an online testing service.

READ MORE: ‘Rapid, serial dating’ a no-go even as people expand their pandemic bubbles: Dr. Henry

Researchers found that 58 per cent of those surveyed had no partners or just one since the pandemic began. Forty per cent of those surveyed reported no change in the number of sex partners during the pandemic, while 31 per cent reported a decrease. However, 25 per cent reported increasing their number of partners later in the pandemic.

Broken down in real numbers, 45 per cent of had one partner throughout the pandemic, 28 per cent had two to three, eight per cent had four to five and six per cent had six or more. About 13 per cent of people had zero partners thought the pandemic.

Of the people surveyed, 31 per cent reported that their sex partners lived with their partners, which led researchers to believe that the majority of partners did not live together.

Researchers also found that 35 per cent of people worried about feeling judged by others for having sex during the pandemic.

How worried were people about catching COVID from their partners? During phase one of the pandemic, researchers found that 35 per cent were not worried at all, 38 per cent were somewhat worried, 14 per cent were very worried and 12 per cent were extremely worried.

During phase two, 26 per cent of people said they were less worried, nine per cent said they were more worried and 65 per cent reported no change at all.

Researchers also looked at how, and if, people accessed sexual health services during the pandemic. They found that 58 per cent of people reported needing sexual health services during the pandemic, but that of those people, 52 per cent did not access the service.

Researchers also found that 66 per cent of people avoided or delayed seeking sexual health services. Of those, 52 per cent delayed or did not access services because of public health messaging to avoid seeking non-urgent care, 48 per cent were concerned about getting COVID at a clinic or lab and 40 per cent did not do so because of closures.

The survey revealed that 41 per cent of people preferred to get tested through GetCheckedOnline, a government service that provides free sexual health testing without a need to go into a clinic. Researchers found that self-collection kits for testing, receiving those kits or antibiotics at home in plain packaging and express testing were good options for people to check on their sexual health as the pandemic continues.

READ MORE: How one pub trivia night can lead to nearly 300 COVID-19 exposures


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

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