Catching a sexually transmitted disease (STD) is always a possibility if you have sexual contact with someone and don’t use reliable protection. It is also possible that you may catch two or more STDs at the same time – either by sleeping with someone who has two STDs already or by sleeping with more than one partner.
This post will look at the scenarios where this might happen and discuss how you can prevent it.
Yes, you can catch more than one STD at the same time.
Every sexually transmitted infection (STI) is caused by a specific organism – a bacteria, a parasite or a virus. This means that one person can be the carrier of more than one infectious agent that can then be passed to their sexual partner.
Let’s say someone has chlamydia and gonorrhoea, and they have unprotected sex with someone else. Here’s what could happen:
- The second person could get chlamydia
- The second person could get gonorrhoea
- The second person could get chlamydia and gonorrhoea
- The second person does not get infected with anything
Any of these scenarios can also happen if two people have protected sex – if the condom breaks or falls off, for example.
Some STIs are commonly found together.
Research into sexually transmitted diseases has shown that some STIs, such as Chlamydia and Gonorrhea, commonly occur alongside each other.
Many other factors can increase a person’s risk of being more vulnerable to sexually transmitted pathogens and getting two or more STDs simultaneously.
For example, if you have already been infected with one STD, you are more at risk of being infected with another. Individuals diagnosed with HIV are more likely to get other STDs than people who haven’t been infected. This is probably because HIV tends to weaken the immune system, which reduces the body’s capability to fight off bacteria or a virus.
If someone tests positively for two or more STDs, they are classed as suffering from a co-infection. Depending on the infection type and the person’s immune response, this can be serious.
The other risk scenario to consider when it comes to STDs is a common belief that if you have contracted an STD once, you can’t contract it again. This is a false belief; reinfection is possible with all STDs, so it is advisable to use protection every time you have sex.
What is the likelihood you will catch two STDs at the same time?
This is a difficult question to answer.
Up to 85% of sexually transmitted infections are symptom-less, so many people may be unaware that they have one until symptoms appear – which may mean they have had unprotected sex in the meantime.
Regular STD testing is, therefore, the only way to identify infections in people without symptoms. Unfortunately, many people don’t get tested regularly as they aren’t aware of the available tests, they are ashamed to get tested, or they feel a stigma attached.
A study was undertaken in 2010, looking at patients with one or more STD infections as defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The study involved 275 patients, with 37% diagnosed with more than one STD. None of these patients reported using a condom regularly to protect themselves and their partner.
The most common STD reported in this study was syphilis (48%), followed by HIV (45%) and HSV-2 (39.2%).
Syphilis occurs most commonly in co-infection with HIV. Gonorrhoea was linked to co-infections with chlamydia or HIV.
How to lower the risk of getting two or more STDs.
Having two or more STIs simultaneously isn’t an uncommon occurrence.
However, you can do things to reduce the risk of contracting two or more STIs, such as being in a monogamous relationship or using a condom every time you have sex.
Regularly testing for STDs is also a good idea. No matter how careful you are, if you are sexually active, you should undertake regular STD testing to give yourself peace of mind.
You can get peace of mind without a trip to your GP or a sexual health clinic by ordering a Test2Go sexual health test to take in the comfort of your home. You then send the sample back to our accredited laboratories to receive a speedy yet reliable result.