In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Howard Brown Health has launched a program to deliver free safe sex kits to encourage people to stay home.
The kit is the brainchild of Howard Brown Health Sexual and Reproductive Health Director Chad Hendry as well as staffers Antonio Elizondo and Carlos Fragoso, who will ensure that the program runs smoothly and the kits are delivered in a timely manner.
"We know people are still having sex and that has not stopped even during this pandemic," said Hendry. "My team and I have been working to develop the program and make it easy to navigate. During normal times, we deploy a lot of protection supplies whether it is condoms or lube to the public.
"We wanted to continue to offer this to folks at no cost in a way that would not require coming to one of our clinic spaces or one of the other places where we provide these supplies across the city. We created a form for people to fill out where they can request what they need and then the kits get assembled from that information so we can send them out via mail."
Hendry told Windy City Times that the kit choices include water, silicone- and aloe-based lubrication as well as regular size, gold foil, and latex-free and receptive-partner condoms.
Additionally, Howard Brown is offering free safer injection and HIV screening kits to reduce risk. The safer injection kit will have sterile water, cotton balls, band aids and alcohol swabs.
Hendry said these kits are the latest measure that Howard Brown has taken to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Now everyone who works at their clinics is required to wear masks and depending on that person's job, different levels of PPE. Howard Brown has also shifted to telehealth for primary care, behavioral and sexual health needs.
"The goal is to reduce everyone's risk of harm from COVID-19 transmission that comes from patients visiting our clinics when it is not absolutely necessary for their treatment," said Hendry. "We are also encouraging folks to call the COVID-19 hotline if they have questions about whether they should be screened for the virus or if they should visit one of our community care tents that are designated for assessment and care. They will be able to talk to a medical provider who will determine their best course of action.
"We are additionally doing contact tracing for folks who screen positive for COVID-19 both for our records and to notify people who may have come in contact with that person so they can get screened as well."
When asked what message Hendry wants to convey to the public, he said stay home if you are able to and that self love is always the best and lowest risk option. Hendry added that if a person is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms they should not engage in sexual contact, if they are experiencing any symptoms of an STI, they should engage in a tele-sexual health screening before they engage in any sexual activity with another person.
"Open communication with your sexual partner is very important to determine what each person's risks are ahead of time in order to come to conclusions together," said Hendry. "We have developed 'Sex and COVID-19 Get the Facts' pamphlets that we are sending out with each kit so folks have the tools to make sure they are safe while having sex.
"We also recommend using condoms for every sexual encounter and that includes on sex toys to mitigate risk. If you normally meet people through online apps to have in-person sex consider sexting or an intimate video to share with that person. We also recommend avoiding mouth-to-mouth kissing, rimming and cunnilingus, because these acts are more likely to spread COVID-19. Also, wash your body and sex toys thoroughly after sex like you now wash your hands after coming into contact with the outside world."
Hendry told Windy City Times to call the telehealth number at 773-388-1600 for both regular health concerns and COVID-19 questions, and to visit HowardBrown.org/preventionsupply to request a kit.