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Can I Get an STD More Than Once?

Can you get an STD more than once? More specifically, can you get the same STD more than once? There are a few factors that influence the answers to those questions.

With some STDs, you can’t contract them more than once, because just once is enough. Herpes and HIV are incurable; the viruses stay in your body for life. While this technically means you can’t contract the diseases again, having sex with someone who has the same incurable STD as you could still cause adverse effects, such as additional outbreaks if both you and your partner have herpes.

For viral infections that aren’t curable but usually go away on their own without treatment, such as certain forms of hepatitis and HPV, while you are less likely to be reinfected with the same strain of the virus, it’s still possible. What’s also possible, and far more likely, is that you’ll contract a different strain of the same virus.

Think of this in terms of another common viral infection: the cold. Colds are incurable viral infections that the body usual fights off and gets rid of on its own. If you’ve recently gotten over a cold, it’s unlikely that you’ll be reinfected with that same exact cold again, although it is still possible. However, as you probably know firsthand, that doesn’t mean you won’t contract a cold ever again. There are more than 200 strains of the common cold, leaving plenty of opportunities for you to contract a cold again. Similarly, there are more than 100 strains of HPV, and numerous types and subtypes of hepatitis.

However, there are vaccines available for hepatitis A, hepatitis B and a select few strains of HPV, namely the most common strains that are known to cause cervical cancer or genital warts. If you’ve been vaccinated for these infections, you won’t contract these specific strains or types, but you could still contract others.

Where the question of “can I get an STD more than once” most often comes into play is if you have a curable STD. These are commonly bacterial or parasitic STDs. Most of these kinds of STDs are easy to treat. But as easy as they are to treat, they’re just as easily contracted again once you’re free and clear.These infections include:

  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhea
  • Syphilis
  • Trichomoniasis
  • Crabs/pubic lice

With these infections, having previously contracted the STD and cured it doesn’t prevent you from contracting it again if you are exposed to it again.

Common Reinfection Causes

Not completing treatment.

One of the more common ways people are reinfected with STDs is not curing themselves of the STD in the first place. Often, people won’t finish all the antibiotics in their course of STD treatment. One common reason for doing this is that their symptoms subsist, and so they think they’ve been cured. But failing to finish antibiotic treatment not only prevents your infection from being cured, it also contributes to antibiotic resistance: in short, what doesn’t kill the virus makes it stronger, so you should always finish any course of antibiotics unless explicitly told otherwise by your doctor.

Not practicing safer sex.

In this instance, practicing safer sex means a few different things. It includes disclosing your infection to your partner, even if you’re currently undergoing treatment. Whether you’re being treated or not, you risk infecting them if you have sex before you’re cured. If both you and a partner are being treated, you should avoid sexual contact until you are both cured. And in the future, you can lower your risk of being reinfected (or unknowingly infecting someone else) by getting tested regularly, knowing your status and only having sex with others who do the same.

So, can you get an STD more than once? In short, yes. The only safe way to become immune to STDs and STIs is vaccination for the select few viruses mentioned above. However, in most cases, there’s no reason you can’t get an STD more than once.