STI & STD – What’s The Difference?

An STI is a sexually transmitted infection, and an STD is a sexually transmitted disease.

Both are essentially the same thing and the terms are used interchangeably. 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 have the same negative connotation attached to it, so doctors and health advisers are more than happy to refer to them as infections rather than diseases.

Technically speaking, STIs and STDs differ slightly— The Differences Between STI & STD.

  • STI’s often have no signs or symptoms (asymptomatic). Even with no symptoms, however, you can pass the infection to your sex partners.
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STI’s), and/or sexually transmitted infections (STD’s), are generally acquired by sexual contact. The organisms that cause sexually transmitted diseases may pass from person to person in blood, semen, or vaginal and other bodily fluids.
  • Sometimes infections can be transmitted non-sexually, such as from mother to infant during pregnancy or childbirth, or through blood transfusions or shared needles resulting in the spread of Hepatitis.

Differences Between STI & STD

STI’s (Sexually Transmitted Infections)

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are infections that spread from one person to another through any type of sexual contact. Having an STI means that an individual has an infection, but that it has not yet developed into a disease. So the sexually transmitted virus or bacteria can be described as creating “infection,” which may or may not result in “disease.”This is true of chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, and human papillomavirus (HPV), to name a few STI’s. 

HIV is an infection with the human immunodeficiency virus. HIV interferes with your body’s ability to fight off viruses, bacteria and fungi that cause illness, and it can lead to AIDS, a chronic, life-threatening sexually transmitted disease.

STD’s (Sexually Transmitted Diseases)

Sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs (sometimes called sexually transmitted disease, or STD’s) affect people of all ages, backgrounds, and from all walks of life. In the U.S. alone there are approximately 20 million new cases each year, about half of which occur among youth ages 15-24 years. The concept of “disease,” as in STD, suggests a clear medical problem, usually some obvious signs or symptoms. 

What’s the Difference Between Infection and Disease?

An infection is often the first step of a disease and occurs when either bacteria, viruses or microbes 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). 

The term STI is broader and more encompassing because some infections are curable and may not cause any symptoms

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

Many STIs show no symptoms at all, so those individuals don’t know they have them– This is why getting tested is so important! STIs caused by bacterial infections can be cleared and cured with antibiotics. Antibiotics can treat STD’s caused by bacteria, yeast, or parasites.

However, there is no cure for STDs caused by a virus, but medicines can often help with the symptoms and keep the disease under control.

So, the summary is this: STD and STI essentially stand for the same thing. The clear distinction is that an STI doesn’t always mean you have an STD.

Don’t assume that STI or STD means the same to anyone else as it does to you. Speak and talk with your medical provider about any questions you may have.

It is recommended to get tested every six months or in-between sexual partners –whichever comes first. Some of the best tools for prevention and early detection are communicating with partners about their STI status, routine testing, and safer sex practices that work for our lives.