Man experiencing uncomfortable symptoms and wondering if he can have more than one STD at a time

Can You Have More Than One STD At A Time?

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.

Table of contents

About Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)

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.[1]

STDs are primarily transmitted through sexual contact. Sexually transmitted infections/diseases include[3]:

  • Chlamydia: A bacterial infection caused by Chlamydia trachomatis and is most common in vulva owners between the ages of 19 and 25.
  • Gonorrhea: A result of a bacterium called Neisseria gonorrhoeae and is treated with antibiotics.
  • Syphilis: Caused by treponema pallidum. In 2020, the CDC reported 134,000 new cases of syphilis.
  • Trichomoniasis: Caused by a parasite called trichomonas vaginalis and can be treated with antibiotics.
  • Pubic Lice: Usually referred to as “crabs”; is parasitic and treated with topicals or hair removal.
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID): If untreated, PID can cause permanent damage.
  • Hepatitis C: Also referred to as HCV; requires treatment as it can result in liver disease, liver failure, or liver cancer.
  • Herpes: A result of the herpes simplex virus (HSV); is found on the genitals and/or in the mouth.
  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV): A viral (chronic) infection that can be managed with medications, though not cured or resolved.
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV): The most common sexually transmitted disease or infection in the United States and is often harmless. Some strains can lead to genital warts and cancer.

Can You Have More Than One STD At A Time?

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-infections and Why They Matter

Co-infection is the result of contracting an STD while actively infected with another one.[2] Gonorrhea and chlamydia often occur simultaneously.[4]

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.

Co-infections With HIV

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.[5] 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.[6]

STI And STD Prevention

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.

Use Barrier Methods Of Protection

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.[7]

Private STD consultations

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.

Getting Tested

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.[8]

Here are general guidelines for STD testing, per the CDC [8]:

  • Those between the ages of 13 and 64 should be tested for HIV once or more.
  • All sexually active women younger than 25 years should be tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia yearly. Women 25 years and older should also be tested yearly for gonorrhea and chlamydia if they're exposed to risk factors such as new or multiple sex partners or a sex partner who has an STD.
  • Anyone who is pregnant should be tested for syphilis, HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C starting early in pregnancy, and those at risk for chlamydia and gonorrhea should be tested for those too.
  • Those who use injectable/intravenous drugs should be tested for HIV at least annually.
  • All sexually active gay, bisexual, and other men having sex with men should be tested for syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea at least once a year. Those with multiple or anonymous partners should be tested more frequently (e.g., every 3 to 6 months). They should also be tested at least once yearly for HIV and may benefit from more frequent HIV testing (e.g., every 3 to 6 months) as well as getting tested at least once a year for hepatitis C, if they're HIV positive.


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.

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  1. CDC - STD Diseases & Related Conditions. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published December 8, 2021. Accessed November 14, 2022.
  2. STD Facts - Human Papillomavirus (HPV). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published April 12, 2022. Accessed November 14, 2022.
  3. STD Facts - Human Papillomavirus (HPV). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published April 12, 2022. Accessed November 14, 2022.
  4. Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Accessed September 10, 2023.
  5. Kalichman SC, Pellowski J, Turner C. Prevalence of sexually transmitted co-infections in people living with HIV/AIDS: Systematic review with implications for using HIV treatments for prevention. Sex Transm Infect. 2011;87(3):183-190. doi:10.1136/sti.2010.047514
  6. HIV/AIDS treatment guidelines. National Institutes of Health. Accessed September 10, 2023.
  7. What is the effectiveness of condoms? Planned Parenthood. Accessed September 10, 2023.
  8. Which STD tests should I get? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. December 14, 2021. Accessed September 10, 2023.
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