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Can you get more than one STD at the same time?

Aug 15, 1999

Say you have unprotected sex with someone who has HIV and also something else like gonorrhea. Can you get both of them at the same time? What about if you use condoms?

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Thank you for your question. If you have unprotected sex with someone, and that person has more than one STD, you can possibly become infected with one or more STDs at the same time. Let me give you an example.

Let's say you have unprotected sex with someone who has both HIV and gonorrhea. The following possiblities can occur:

1) you can become infected with both HIV and gonorrhea at the same time, OR

2) you can become infected with just HIV and not gonorrhea, OR

3) you can become infected with just gonorrhea and not HIV, OR

4) you may not get either of these infections (making you a very lucky person).

Let's now say you have protected sex (using a condom) with someone who has both HIV and gonorrhea. The following possiblities can occur:

1) If you use the condom correctly, and it does not break or fall off, you would be at low risk of infection for both of these STDs, and it would be highly unlikely that you would get either of these infections.

2) If you did not use the condom correctly, and/or the condom broke, leaked, or fell off, then you would be at risk of infection. The longer you have sex after the condom fails, the greater your risk would be. In a case such as this, the risks would be similar to the first example given above (the unprotected sex example).

Let me also point out that if your partner had another STD such as herpes or genital warts, and the infection is located in an area that is not covered by the condom, then the risk of infection still exists.

I have occasionally seen cases where a person simultaneously got infected with two, three, and even four different STDs all at the same time. It is for this reason that if a person is diagnosed with one STD, we normally test for other STDs as well.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to call the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide).

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