The question  “What is the difference between STIs and STDs?” comes up all the time, especially since, when talking or reading about sexual health, the term STI is becoming more and more common. STD vs STI: They are not exactly the same.

Sexually Transmitted Infections

What’s the difference between STIs and STDs?

An STI is a sexually transmitted infection, and an STD is a sexually transmitted disease.
STDs and STIs are often used interchangeably and as synonyms, but they technically mean different things. We’ll dive into greater details about their exact differences below.

Technically, STIs and STDs differ– Having an STI means that an individual has an infection, but that it has not yet developed into a disease. Take HPV (human papillomavirus) for instance: Typically a woman with HPV does not have any symptoms, but she carries the virus. She has an STI; but if she develops cervical cancer from HPV, she now has an STD since cancer is a disease. The same is true for individuals who have chlamydia or gonorrhea infections that develop into pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).

The real question here is: What’s the difference between infection and disease? An infection or STI disease is often the first step of a disease and occurs when either bacteria or viruses enter the body and start multiplying. The disruption of normal body function or structure, especially when signs and symptoms appear, is considered STI disease (as long as the cause is not the result of a physical injury).

This means, medically speaking, that all STDs start out as STIs. STIs that progress into disease are STDs.

The usage of STI is becoming seemingly more preferred by the health world thanks in part to a less negative stigma. STDs have been around forever– think back to junior high health classes. But the phrase “sexually transmitted infection” doesn’t yet have the same negative connotation attached to it, so doctors and health advisors are more than happy to use the term infection rather than disease.

STI Disease

Many STIs show no symptoms at all, so those individuals don’t know they are infected– This is why getting tested is so important! Sexually transmitted infections caused by bacterial infections can usually be easily cleared and cured with antibiotics, so get std tested (and treated, if necessary)!

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Medically Reviewed by on September 8, 2018

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Author: Nick Corlis

Nick Corlis is a writer, marketer, and designer. He graduated from Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas, with a degree in Digital Communications. Nick is proud to be able to help eliminate the stigma of STD testing through his writing and is always trying to advocate the importance of your sexual health. Before STDcheck, his favorite way to develop his writing skills was by accepting various writing jobs in college and maintaining multiple blogs. Nick wears many hats here at STDcheck, but specifically enjoys writing accurate, well-researched content that is not only informative and relatable but sometimes also contains memes. When not writing, Nick likes to race cars and go-karts, eat Japanese food, and play games on his computer.