Is it possible to get two STDs at once?
You can catch an STD if you have sex or any kind of sexual contact with an infected individual and you don’t use a condom. Unfortunately, it’s possible to have two or more STDs at the same time. This will usually happen if you’ve had multiple sexual partners since your last STD test or if you sleep with someone who already has two STDs. In this blog, we take a look at the scenarios where this could occur and discuss how to prevent or treat a dual infection.
How do you catch multiple sexually transmitted infections?
If you have sex with someone who has a sexually transmitted infection you are at risk of catching it, especially if you don’t use a condom. This is still the case if you already have a different STI.
Multiple STIs will usually be caught as a result of infrequent STD testing by either you or the person that you’re sleeping with. Getting tested regularly identifies STDs as they arise, enabling you to treat them effectively.
How do you know you have two STDs?
Many STDs show very similar symptoms, which means it’s hard to know whether you’ve been infected by more than one STD. Some common STD symptoms that could be caused by multiple conditions include:
- Burning/painful sensation during urination.
- Unusual vaginal bleeding
- Odd-smelling vaginal discharge
- Discharge from the penis
- Swollen lymph nodes in the groin
Even worse than that is the fact that many STDs are often asymptomatic. Take chlamydia as an example, which only shows symptoms in 50% of men and 25% of women on average. This means that you’re unlikely to know you have chlamydia without regular testing in between sexual partners.
Getting tested for multiple STDs
You will only know if you have multiple STDs by testing for multiple conditions. Individual Tests will only show the STD that they test, whereas Profile Tests will test for as many as 11 conditions at one time.
If you are exposed to one STD, then you are likely exposed to any STD so a more comprehensive profile test is always the best way to establish if you have multiple infections.
You should get tested if you have had unprotected sex with someone new for the first time, if you notice symptoms similar to those above or if someone you have slept with in the past has told you that they have an STD.
It’s also worthwhile getting tested once a year as a precaution to ensure your long term sexual health.
To get tested, you will usually have to visit a clinic or you will receive a home test kit. This will usually involve a urine sample collected by you and a blood sample either collected by a nurse or collected using a finger prick sample. You may also be required to provide a swab sample.
Your Sexual Health has a wide range of Profile Tests available as postal, clinic or home visit tests.
How are two STDs treated at the same time?
Treatment varies depending on the STD or combination of STDs that you have contracted. Bacterial conditions (chlamydia/gonorrhoea/syphilis) are usually easily treated through a course of antibiotics, but many viral STDs including herpes, HIV and hepatitis cannot be completely cured.
If someone is infected by two bacterial STDs at the same time, the GP who is treating you may opt for one course of antibiotics or he may elect a combination of antibiotics. Retesting for both STDs will usually be required once the course of treatment is complete, if the infection is still present another course of antibiotics can be prescribed.
If someone is infected by both bacterial and viral STDs, the treatment usually differs greatly. The bacterial STD will be treated through antibiotics, whilst treatment for any viral infection will usually focus on managing symptoms or reducing the viral load.