Can I Get the Same STI a Second Time?

Whether you can get the same sexually transmitted infection (STI) again depends, to some extent, on what you were infected with. There are some STIs that you can contract over and over again. There are others that you get once and are infected with for life.

There are also a few STIs that you can become immune to after vaccination or infection, but they are the exception rather than the rule.

Knowing more about which STIs fit into which categories cannot only help you better monitor your health, but protect the health of your sexual partner(s).

Syphilis positive
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STIs You Can Get Repeatedly

Most bacterial and parasitic STIs are relatively easy to treat. They're also easy to catch again after treatment.

That's why, when you have a treatable STI, most healthcare providers recommend that you refrain from sex until both you and your partner have completed treatment (and sometimes longer).

Here are some of the bacterial and parasitic STIs that you can get more than once:

If you don't wait until an STI treatment has had time to clear an infection, you and your partner could end up passing the disease back and forth.

STIs That Are Unlikely to Cause Reinfection

Some viral STIs last a lifetime. However, there are some that the body can clear on its own, like human papillomavirus (HPV) or hepatitis B.

Once you have gotten rid of an HPV infection, you're less likely to be reinfected, though it's still possible. It's also possible to be infected with a different strain of HPV. There are over 100 types, about 30 of which can affect the genitals, rectum, and anus.

Therefore, even if a past infection completely eliminated susceptibility to one strain, you would still be at significant risk to pick up another type.

Other STIs like HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), oral herpes, or genital herpes result in lifelong infection. You never truly get rid of these viral infections, although they may lie dormant for years or even decades.

In general, the symptoms of viral STIs may be treatable. However, the infections themselves are difficult or impossible to cure.

It's also important to know that, although they generally clear up on their own, hepatitis B and HPV can also set up long-term, chronic infections. Whether you kick such viral infections or they become chronic depends on a number of factors, including the health of your immune system.

Hepatitis B is one infection that results in immunity. However, immunity is primarily achieved through vaccination.

Seven cancer-causing strains of HPV are also preventable by vaccine, as are the two strains most likely to cause genital warts.

Common Causes of Reinfection

Although some STIs can be diagnosed and treated, it may still be possible to get reinfected. Some common ways that people get reinfected include failure to complete treatment, a partner not getting treated, and not practicing safer sex.

Failure to Complete Treatment

If you don't take your entire course of antibiotics, you may not fully get rid of an infection. In addition, failing to finish your medication can cause problems such as antibiotic resistance. This means that the medication may not work as well if you need to take it again.

Due to high rates of incomplete therapy (not finishing medication), antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea has developed. Gonorrhea is now resistant to many treatment options, and antibiotic resistance may one day turn a relatively uncomplicated STI into one that is difficult, if not impossible, to cure.

To help combat this, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends a dose of ceftriaxone be given for the treatment of uncomplicated gonorrhea infections.

A Partner Doesn't Get Treated

If only one member of a sexual partnership gets tested and treated, the other may remain infected without knowing it. Then, even if the first person is successfully treated, they can become reinfected during sex.

Not Practicing Safer Sex

If you're sexually active during STI treatment, there is a possibility that you could transmit your current infection to other sexual partners.

That's why it's best to avoid sex entirely until treatment is done. If you don't, the person you gave the infection to could pass it right back to you once you've been cured.

Tips for Practicing Safer Sex

  • Limit your number of sex partners.
  • Use condoms consistently and correctly.
  • Avoid sharing sex toys.
  • Avoid using drugs and alcohol, which can impair your judgment.
  • Get tested for STIs with your partner.
6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Workowski KA, Bachmann LH, Chan PA, et al. Sexually transmitted infections treatment guidelinesMMWR Recomm Rep. 2021;70(4):1-187. doi:10.15585/mmwr.rr7004a1

  2. Cleveland Clinic. HPV (human papilloma virus).

  3. National Institutes of Health. Is there a cure for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and sexually transmitted infections (STIs)?

  4. Tan A, Koh S, Bertoletti A. Immune response in hepatitis B virus infectionCold Spring Harb Perspect Med. 2015;5(8):a021428. doi:10.1101/cshperspect.a021428

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How you can prevent sexually transmitted diseases.

  6. Gable J, Eder J, Mollen C. Preventing chlamydia and gonorrhea reinfection through increased use of expedited partner therapy. Policy Lab Center to Bridge Research, Practice and Policy.

Additional Reading

By Elizabeth Boskey, PhD
Elizabeth Boskey, PhD, MPH, CHES, is a social worker, adjunct lecturer, and expert writer in the field of sexually transmitted diseases.