STDs Expert Forum
Time Interval Between STD Exposures
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The STD Forum is intended only for questions and support pertaining to sexually transmitted diseases other than HIV/AIDS, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, human papillomavirus, genital warts, trichomonas, other vaginal infections, nongonoccal urethritis (NGU), cervicitis, molluscum contagiosum, chancroid, and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). All questions will be answered by H. Hunter Handsfield, M.D. or Edward W Hook, MD.

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Time Interval Between STD Exposures


I have read through your posts and other Internet articles that the risk for a one time unprotected exposure to chlamydia/gonorrhea is around 20% transmission.  But what if the exposures to the same person are spread out over many days?

Let's say on Monday I have unprotected sex with a person that is infected with chlamydia/gonorrhea.  Then I have unprotected sex with the same person on the following Saturday.  Would my risk of transmission on Saturday be 20% or 40%?  In other words, how many hours/days/weeks must elapse for the transmission rate to reset back to 20% as a first time exposure?

A related second question is what if I have unprotected sex with a person who has chlamydia, then I have unprotected sex with a different person who also has chlamydia.  Is the risk of transmission 20% or 40% with the second person?  In other words are the two chlamydia strains considered the same, or are they so different that it is like being exposed to a whole new infection and thus the transmission rate would be 20% because this is a completely new exposure?
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Welcome to the forum.

As you might imagine, there are no research data to answer your first question with certainty.  Presumably each exposure has the same transmission risk as all others.  If one exposure carries a 20% risk, 2 events should make it 40% likely you would be infected.  At the same time, after 10+ exposures, some people probably would remain uninfected.  The main take-home message is that if you have had unprotected vaginal sex with a partner with chlamydia, you should assume you are infected and should be treated.  Beyon that, it is pointless to speculate.

And whether there is equal risk from two different partner is unknown.  Most likely there are differences; if one partner has a heavier infection burden, the risk with that partner might be higher than 20%; or lower if the infection burden is less.  But the final advice remains unchanged:  get tested and treated.  Do not wait for test results; you need treatment even if your own test is negative.

Regards--  HHH, MD
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