What’s the Difference Between STD and STI?

What’s the Difference Between STD and STI?

Table of Contents

STD or STI? Are they the same? Is one more severe than the other, and what does it mean for you? There are many misconceptions surrounding these two acronyms, but we’re here to dispel the confusion and make sure you know what each term stands for, as well as the testing options for both.

The Basics

STD:  Stands for (Sexually Transmitted Disease) and is defined as “an infectious disease that spreads from person to person during sexual contact.” [1] , this is the most-commonly used term, to describe those infections and medical conditions which their primary mode of transmission between humans is via sexual contact, including vaginal intercourse, as well as oral, anal sex, as well as skin-to-skin contact with an infected person. Among these, we can find diseases such as syphilis, trichomoniasis, and HIV. Please note that, some diseases and conditions may vary in the likelihood of their transmission depending on the type of sexual activity.

STI: Stands for (Sexually Transmitted Infection) and is a terminology used commonly as a synonym of STD [2]. The ASHA (American Sexual Health Association) started to use the term interchangeably with STD in 1988,[3] and was recommended by public health experts to be used as to emphasize the importance of primary prevention (avoiding infection) rather than secondary prevention (ameliorating disease).[4] This is because, unfortunately, in many cases people experiencing SDTs or STIs aren’t aware of the symptoms and because of this think they don’t have an infection, creating in consequence a vicious cycle of transmission to others, with ~1 million STIs or SDTs being acquired worldwide every day.[5]

Simply put, the infection is what happens when you acquire a sexually transmitted pathogen which starts to multiply inside your body, but it’s only considered to become a disease once you start to show symptoms. In most cases, a sexually transmitted disease is preceded by the infection. Not all STIs turn into STDs, since many infections can remain asymptomatic and your immune system could clear them on its own. However, STIs are still a health problem because you can transmit them to other people, even if you’re completely asymptomatic.

In such cases, accurate diagnostic tests for STIs/STDs are especially useful for the diagnosis of asymptomatic infections. The type of test used will depend specially on the STD tested, being available as well tests that test many STDs/STIs at the same time (usually this is the best option for asymptomatic patients).

Finally, is important to note that, the only 100% guaranteed methods of preventing any STD or STI are either not having any kind of sexual contact or having it inside a monogamous faithful relationship with a non-infected person. In case you are outside one of these two groups, please consider you are at risk of developing an STD or STI, in this case, or if you experience any symptoms, a visit to your doctor and receiving an STD test can be the first steps to take. 


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