Written on September 19, 2023 by Gillian (Gigi) Singer, MPH, Sexuality Educator & Certified Sexologist. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
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According to the CDC, there are millions of new Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) every year in the United States — they are very common.
STDs are primarily transmitted through sexual contact. Sexually transmitted infections/diseases include:
Simply, yes. It is possible to have more than one sexually transmitted disease or infection at the same time. This is known as co-infection. Co-infections happen when an individual is infected with multiple sexually transmitted diseases or infections simultaneously. The prevalence of co-infections is common, and certain risk factors and behaviors can increase your vulnerability.
Co-infection is the result of contracting an STD while actively infected with another one. Gonorrhea and chlamydia often occur simultaneously.
Co-infections can increase the risk of serious complications and can be more difficult to diagnose and treat. Living with co-infections can also have psychological and emotional effects, affecting your overall well-being.
The prevalence of STIs in those infected with HIV suggests that STI co-infections could affect efforts to use preventative HIV treatments by increasing genital secretion infectiousness. In general, HIV infections decrease the capacity of the immune system, making the body more vulnerable to infections of all kinds. For example, in the U.S., an estimated 62% to 80% of people who inject drugs who have HIV also have [Hepatitis C] infection.
The best way to prevent the contraction and/or transmission of sexually transmitted diseases and infections if and when you are sexually active is to engage in safer sex practices.
Barrier methods include external condoms, internal condoms, and products like FDA-approved single-use latex underwear.
Condoms are 98% effective at preventing pregnancy if used perfectly every time. But people aren't perfect, so realistically, condoms are about 87% effective. This means about 13 out of 100 people using condoms as their sole birth control method will get pregnant every year.
External condoms are worn on the penis, and internal condoms are placed inside the vagina or anus. Using lubricants makes these products more effective because lubricants prevent the condom from tearing during use. Most water- and silicone-based lubricants can be used with condoms, but always double-check the condom packaging or product website for information. While it's both rare and extremely unlikely, it is possible to get a trichomoniasis STI from a toilet seat, so consider using bathroom tissue covers while utilizing a public restroom.
Get tested regularly and/or often, and require the same of your sexual partner(s). If you're sexually active, getting tested for STDs is very important for protecting your health. Have an open and honest conversation about your sexual history and STD testing with your healthcare provider as well as ask if you should be tested for STDs. Alternatively, there are many clinics that provide confidential and free or low-cost testing if you don't feel comfortable speaking with your regular healthcare provider about STDs. Below is a brief overview of STD testing recommendations.
Here are general guidelines for STD testing, per the CDC :
While not a preference for some people, maintaining monogamous sexual relationships reduces the likelihood of getting a sexually transmitted disease or infection. If you do have multiple sexual partners, it’s more important to be diligent with safer sex practices.
Being open and honest about diagnoses is the best way to find out if a potential sexual partner has an STI or STD. Open dialogue, in general, promotes healthy relationships of all kinds, not just sexual ones.