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