Last Updated on June 4, 2020 by Nancy Carteron, MD, FACR
Official Definition: What Is An STI?
Sexually transmitted infections (also known as STIs, or STDs for ‘sexually transmitted diseases,’ or VD for ‘venereal diseases’) are infections that are commonly/have a high probability of being spread from person to person through unprotected intimate contact.
STIs can affect guys and girls of all ages and backgrounds who are engaging in sexual contact, including vaginal intercourse, oral sex, and anal sex.
While in the past, these illnesses have mostly been referred to as STDs or VD, in recent years the term sexually transmitted infection (STI) has been preferred by the medical sector as it has a broader range of meaning; a person may be ‘infected’ and may potentially infect others without showing signs of ‘disease’.
Some STIs can also be transmitted via the sharing of IV drug needles after their use by an infected person as well as through childbirth or breastfeeding.
What Is Considered Sexual Contact?
Sexually transmitted infections have been well known for hundreds of years and it is important to realize that sexual contact includes more than just sexual intercourse (vaginal and anal).
Sexual contact can encompass kissing, oral-genital contact, and the use of sexual ‘toys’, such as vibrators.
Most people think that kissing is a safe activity.
Even so, herpes, mononucleosis and other infections can be contracted through this relatively simple and often harmless act.
The use of condoms is commonly thought to protect against STIs, but it’s important to remember, all forms of sexual contact carry some risk. Although condoms can be very useful in decreasing the spread of certain fluid-borne infections, such as chlamydia and gonorrhea, they do not fully protect against other infections contracted via skin-to-skin contact such as herpes, genital warts, syphilis, and molluscum contagiosum.
Many STIs are treatable or manageable, but effective cures are lacking for others, such as HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), HPV (human papillomavirus), HSV (herpes simplex virus) and hepatitis B & C. Even gonorrhea, once easily cured, has become resistant to many of the older traditional antibiotics.
STIs can be present in and spread by people who do not have any symptoms of the condition and have not yet been diagnosed.
Therefore, decreasing stigma via public awareness and education about these infections and the methods used to help prevent them is incredibly important.
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Did this article help answer your question? Did you think an STI or STD was something else? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!