STD vs STI: Understanding the Differences in Terminology


In 2017, STD rates in America hit an all-time high with almost 2.3 million cases. Since sex education is lacking in some areas of the country, it's not that big of a surprise that some people aren't aware of how these infections and diseases are spread.

But even if you're well-informed about STDs and do all you can to prevent transmission, it can still happen. Should it occur, would you know the difference between STD vs STI? If not, then here's everything you need to know about the two.

What's an STI?

The acronym "STI" means "sexually transmitted infection." This is an infection that you can contract by having sexual contact with someone else. Some common ones include chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis.

Most of the time, STIs are caught when there's lack of protection use, such as a condom. But protection isn't 100%; you can still get an STI even if you used a condom during your sexual encounters.

What's an STD?

The term "STD" stands for "sexually transmitted disease." You might be more familiar with this term, as it's the more commonly used one in sex ed classes.

Just like with STIs, you can get these from your sexual partners, with or without protection. However, by using prophylactics, you can lower your chances of getting either one significantly.

STD vs STI: What's the Difference?

Essentially, there's not much difference between STDs and STIs. They're both conditions that can be passed back and forth between sexual partners.

However, if you have an STD, this means you've had an STI. But if you have an STI, that doesn't necessarily mean you have an STD. This is because you can have an STI but not have any symptoms, which means it hasn't transitioned to an STD yet.

Think about it in terms of HIV and AIDS. Just because someone has HIV (the infection) doesn't necessarily mean they have AIDS (the disease). But if it gets advanced enough, you can have AIDS.

Another example is HPV. Over their lifetimes, many women will contract or develop HPV; this is the infection, or STI. But HPV can clear on its own, which means you don't have to take any action. But if it develops further, it can turn into cervical cancer, which would be the STD.

Why the Switch from STD to STI?

Many professionals in the medical field have switched terms from "STD" to "STI." There are a few reasons for this.

First of all, they believe it's a more accurate term for anything contracted from a sexual partner, especially if it's in the early stages. Should it become more serious, then they call it an STD. By differentiating, there's more indication as to how serious your condition is.

Also, there's a stigma associated with the term "STD." By re-terming it as "STI," there might be less stigma surrounding contracting infections or diseases from sexual partners.

How Can I Protect Myself?

The ideal way to protect yourself is to have just one regular sexual partner and to always practice safe sex. This would include getting tests at least once a year and only omitting condoms once you're sure you and you're partner are STD-free.

However, you may want to have a more liberating sex life where you have a new partner often. If this is the case, then always use condoms.

A vital thing you have to do is to get regular STD testing, even if you're in a monogamous, long-term relationship. In most cases, if they're detected early enough, STIs can be cured or alleviated with some prescription medications.

But if too much time lapses between your tests, or if you never get tested, some symptomless conditions can turn into something much worse, such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID can result in infertility, ectopic pregnancies, and chronic pain.

How Often Should I Get Tested?

There's no hard and fast answer as to how often you should get tested for STDs. But whento get tested is vital.

There are several situations where you should book an appointment with a doctor. Here are a few:

  • You have symptoms. If anything's out of the ordinary, get yourself an STD test as soon as you can.
  • You want to become sexually active. It's possible to have an STD without fully penetrative sex, so make sure you get a clean bill of health before you delve deeper into your sex life.
  • You got a new sexual partner. You're essentially blending another person's medical history with yours, so make sure they haven't transmitted any new infection to you. Even if you have a history with this person, get tested again if you haven't had sex with them in a while, since their sexual history may have changed since you saw them last.
  • You have casual sex frequently. If you many new partners within a short span of time, plus it's over an extended period of time, it may not be feasible to get tested after every single partner. In that case, you should schedule regular testing.
  • You haven't had sex in a while. Some STDs or STIs can lay dormant for a long time, sometimes even years; a prime example of this is chlamydia. Even if you're not sexually active, it's good to get regular testing done to ensure nothing dormant's become active.

Use At-Home Testing

If you don't have time to go to appointments for STD testing, you'll be pleased to know that you can order the 247Labkit, which is done at home. This can make STD testing very confidential and convenient for you since you can take the test when you have time, with no one watching.

All you have to do is take the tests, send in your kits, and you'll get your results back quickly.

Practice Safe Sex

By knowing the difference between an STD vs STI, you'll be able to tell if anything's serious. However, the best thing to do if you ever notice something out of the ordinary is to go see a doctor. They can properly diagnose you and give you the right treatment so you'll be in good health again.

If you're worried that you may have an STI, feel free to order an at-home test kit and put your doubts to rest.


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