Yes, it is possible to have two (or more) different types of STDs at the same time. These can result in more severe symptoms and additional health problems.
If the second STD occurs after the first one, misdiagnosis is also a major possibility. You may assume that the new symptoms are those of the first infection and neglect to seek treatment.
That’s why it is important to get tested regularly even after treating one STD. Get one of those multi-panel tests offered by companies like STD Test Express and STD Check.
I highly recommend STD testing online. It is quick, anonymous and not too expensive. You can also visit your local clinic or find a free STD clinic in your area.
Why Coinfection Happens
Coinfection is not something many people think about but it can definitely happen. Any two STDs can infect you at the same time.
One can even be a bacterial STD (which are fairly easy to treat) like gonorrhea and the other a viral STD (which have no cure) like Hepatitis.
You can also have two bacterial STDs or two viral ones.
But many coinfections involve gonorrhea and chlamydia. These two STDs occur together so frequently that most gonorrhea STD tests also check for chlamydia.
Additionally, most medications for gonorrhea also treat Chlamydia. This is because even if you test only positive for gonorrhea, there’s a good chance that you also have chlamydia and it may have been missed.
Individuals with HIV are also at a higher risk of contracting other STDs.
Your sexual lifestyle is what mostly determines your risk of coinfection. People with multiple sexual partners are more likely to contract different STDs from different people. The risk is obviously much higher if you don’t use a condom.
The risk of coinfection is also higher if you already have an STD. Your immune system is already under attack (especially if you have HIV) and you may develop new blisters and lesions that provide additional access points for new infections.
Not getting tested regularly for STDs is another major risk factor for coinfection. Because most STDs do not show any serious symptoms in the beginning, you may think you are completely healthy and fail to take protective measures to prevent another STD.
What About Re-infection?
Can you be infected by the same STD twice or more?
Yes, it can happen. It is especially common with bacterials STDs like Gonorrhea and Chlamydia.
Unlike diseases like chickenpox, your body does not develop natural immunity to STDs once you get one. So you can still get infected by the same STD later on.
So you still need to protect yourself against that specific STD even after successful treatment.
Having more sexual partners and not using protection during sex increases the risk of re-infection.
Note that for certain viral infections like hepatitis and HPV which usually go away on their own, you are less likely to get re-infected with the same strain. But it can still happen.
The only sure fire way to develop immunity towards an STD is via vaccinations. And as of now, only a few STDs can be vaccinated against.
Practicing safe sex and other common sense STD prevention measures is the best way to stay safe.
Tips to Avoid Coinfection and Reinfection
- Practice safe sex. Always use a condom when having sex with someone with whom you are not mutually exclusive.
- Reduce the number of sexual partners. This lowers your risk of contracting multiple STDs or getting re-infected with an STD.
- Get a multi-panel test regularly. This will ensure you don’t miss an STD. Multi-panel tests are more expensive but they provide better protection.
- Get tested regularly even if you already have an STD. You may have missed a developing STD the first time or you may have contracted another after the last test.
- If you test positive for an STD, abstain from sex until you undergo treatment. Ask your doctor when it is safe to have sex again.
- Practice mutual exclusivity with your partner. Other than complete abstinence, this is the next best way to prevent STDs.