Objectives: The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and exacerbated existing socioeconomic and health disparities, including disparities in sexual health and well-being. While there have been several reviews published on COVID-19 and population health disparities generally—including some with attention to HIV—none has focused on sexual health (ie, STI care, female sexual health, sexual behaviour). We have conducted a scoping review focused on sexual health (excluding reproductive health (RH), intimate partner violence (IPV) and gender-based violence (GBV)) in the COVID-19 era, examining sexual behaviours and sexual health outcomes.
Methods: A scoping review, compiling both peer-reviewed and grey literature, focused on sexual health (excluding RH, IPV and GBV) and COVID-19 was conducted on 15 September 2020. Multiple bibliographical databases were searched. Study selection conformed to Joanna Briggs Institute (JBI) Reviewers’ Manual 2015 Methodology for JBI Scoping Reviews. We only included English-language original studies.
Results: We found that men who have sex with men may be moving back toward pre-pandemic levels of sexual activity, and that STI and HIV testing rates seem to have decreased. There was minimal focus on outcomes such as the economic impact on sexual health (excluding RH, IPV and GBV) and STI care, especially STI care of marginalised populations. In terms of population groups, there was limited focus on sex workers or on women, especially women’s sexual behaviour and mental health. We noticed limited use of qualitative techniques. Very few studies were in low/middle-income countries (LMICs).
Conculsions: Sexual health research is critical during a global infectious disease pandemic and our review of studies suggested notable research gaps. Researchers can focus efforts on LMICs and under-researched topics within sexual health and explore the use of qualitative techniques and interventions where appropriate.