Last Updated on June 4, 2020 by Stacy Sampson, DO
Po-TAY-to, Po-TAH-to? EE-ther, EYE-ther?
Wondering what the difference is between STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) and STIs (sexually transmitted infections)? The STI Project is here to give you the low-down! Phew! Thank goodness, cause this stuff is confusing!
STI and STD are sometimes used interchangeably.
More recently, the term STI has been used rather than STD (especially in the medical sector). The reason for this is that many people are infected but may not have had the infection show symptoms or turn into a disease. Being infected does not mean you feel sick or start to show signs of a disease.
However, you may still, in fact, be infected, contagious and carrying the potential of a disease.
Although all STDs are preceded by STIs, not all STIs result in the development of STDs.
For instance, about 90% of women who are infected with human papillomavirus (HPV) clear their infections within two years. Only women with persistent infections are at risk for developing the disease – cervical cancer. (This does not address the strains of HPV which cause genital warts.)
It is important to remember it is not necessary to have a disease, or any symptoms at all, in order to be contagious. Many people who are infected with STIs that have not yet progressed to STDs have gone on to infect other people.
One must also remember that, technically, all of this is medical jargon. 🙂
It will take a lot of education to separate the two in the minds of the public. Most of the time, people don’t know they are infected with an STI until they start showing symptoms of disease. Yet, it is still pertinent they are tested frequently because of the risks of transmission noted above.
While the term STD has been around a long time (way back when, it was called venereal disease – named after Venus, the goddess of love), STI is becoming increasingly popular.
Some people think this newer term helps minimize stigma around these illnesses; it’s less harsh to talk about an infection as opposed to a disease. However, many people still don’t know what STI refers to.
At The STI Project, we use the term STD most often because people are more familiar with it. Some posts and pages will also contain a lot of the term STI because we are trying to make sure the people searching for information about STIs are also able to find The STI Project.
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Were you confused about the two terms as well? Do you think STI helps reduce stigma or lesson the blow for those who are diagnosed? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!