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Sexual health (excluding reproductive health, intimate partner violence and gender-based violence) and COVID-19: a scoping review
  1. Navin Kumar1,
  2. Kamila Janmohamed1,
  3. Kate Nyhan2,3,
  4. Laura Forastiere4,
  5. Wei-Hong Zhang5,6,
  6. Anna Kågesten7,
  7. Maximiliane Uhlich8,
  8. Afia Sarpong Frimpong1,
  9. Sarah Van de Velde9,
  10. Joel M Francis10,
  11. Jennifer Toller Erausquin11,
  12. Elin Larrson7,12,
  13. Deton Callander13,
  14. John Scott14,
  15. Victor Minichiello14,15,
  16. Joseph Tucker16,17,18
  1. 1 Department of Sociology, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, USA
  2. 2 Harvey Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Library, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut, USA
  3. 3 Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Yale School of Public Health, New Haven, CT, USA
  4. 4 Department of Biostatistics, Yale School of Public Health, New Haven, CT, USA
  5. 5 School of Public Health, Free University of Brussels, Brussels, Belgium
  6. 6 International Centre for Reproductive Health, Department of Public Health and Primary Care, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium
  7. 7 Department of Global Public Health, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
  8. 8 Department of Psychology, University of Friborg, Fribourg, Switzerland
  9. 9 Department of Sociology, Centre for Population, Family and Health, University of Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium
  10. 10 Department of Family Medicine and Primary Care, School of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg-Braamfontein, Gauteng, South Africa
  11. 11 Public Health Education, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, North Carolina, USA
  12. 12 Department of Women's and Children's Health, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
  13. 13 Department of Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA
  14. 14 School of Social Justice, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
  15. 15 Faculty of Medicine and Health, University of New England, Armidale, New South Wales, Australia
  16. 16 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
  17. 17 School of Medicine, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA
  18. 18 Faculty of Infectious and Tropical Diseases, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Navin Kumar, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06511, USA; navin183{at}


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).

Conclusions 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.

  • COVID-19
  • sexual health
  • HIV
  • sex work
  • sexual and gender minorities

This article is made freely available for use in accordance with BMJ’s website terms and conditions for the duration of the covid-19 pandemic or until otherwise determined by BMJ. You may use, download and print the article for any lawful, non-commercial purpose (including text and data mining) provided that all copyright notices and trade marks are retained.

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  • Handling editor Bea Vuylsteke

  • Contributors NK, KN, KJ and ASF conducted searches. NK and KJ wrote the first draft. NK, KN, KJ, ASF, LF, DC, VM, JS, JMF, SVdV, MU, W-HZ, AK, EL, JTE and JT contributed to the manuscript write-up and review.

  • Funding The study was funded by the Fund for Lesbian and Gay Studies, Yale University.

  • Disclaimer The funding body had no role in the design, analysis or interpretation of the data in the study.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.