Sexual Health Monday August 8, 2011

STI vs. STD: What’s the difference?

We all know the term STD, which is an acronym for sexually transmitted disease. However, the term STI (sexually transmitted infection) is being used more commonly by experts to describe the various conditions that are spread through sexual contact.

Sexually transmitted infections/diseases can also be transferred through means other than sexual activity, such as blood transfusions or sharing needles; but these conditions are classed as STIs/STDs because sexual intercourse is the main and most common way in which they are passed on from one person to the next.

Although both terms can correctly be used to describe a condition such as gonorrhoea, chlamydia or genital herpes, an STD already assumes that a person’s health is affected as a result of an infection; whereas a sexually transmitted infection (STI) describes an infection, whether or not a person is displaying any signs of having a disease.

Doctors distinguish between these two terms because the one isn’t always interchangeable with the other, as a person may have an STI without actually being ill or showing symptoms. In other words: all STDs are STIs, but not all STIs are STDs.

From a more social perspective, the term STI may be seen as a more politically correct way of saying a person has contracted a condition through sexual contact. Just like the use of the term VD before the 90s, the term STD is largely seen as having negative connotations attached to it. The term disease also causes people to falsely assume that it’s incurable or difficult to treat, which is not the case with most STIs as they can easily be tested for and treated with a single course of medication.

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