What Is An STD Vs STI

In the past, sexually transmitted conditions were frequently referred to as STDs or sexually transmitted diseases. The last several years, however, many experts have begun transitioning to use the term STI, which stands for sexually transmitted infection. Although these are two separate terms, the general public tends to use the acronyms interchangeably.

Comparing Definitions

Technically speaking, STD should be used to refer to diseases which are transmitted sexually while STI should refer to infections which are transmitted in this manner. The two terms have been used interchangeably for several years as many people are used to referring to these conditions as STDs.

The transition from STD to STI began due to the fact that while some of the STDs can lead to diseases eventually, that is not always the case. While many STDs are in fact disease, not all are. Chlamydia, for example, may infect someone without ever experiencing the symptoms that would be associated with diseases. Even in some cases where symptoms are experienced, they may be mild enough where the person does not feel as if they suffer from a disease; instead it may feel slightly off. Those with asymptomatic chlamydia would, however, still have an infection as the condition would be infecting them and require treatment. There are also people who prefer to refer to these conditions as STIs due to the stigma associated with STDs, which has not spread to STIs.

One Possible Use

Some experts still use both the term STD and the term STI, but in different manners. In this case, the STI (sexually transmitted infection) would refer to a condition that has been sexually transmitted, but does not necessarily include any physical symptoms, meaning it is asymptomatic. In this case, an STD (sexually transmitted disease) would be diagnosed if symptoms appear. In addition to the chlamydia example given above, other conditions which are sexually transmitted, but may not lead to disease include herpes, HPV (human papillomavirus), and gonorrhea.

Common Use

As mentioned earlier, the common use in the world today is to use either the term STD or STI in a given situation to mean the same thing. For many people, this is simply a force of habit as until semi-recently, the only term available was STD. In practice, this means that whether you hear the term STD or STI, you should take them to mean some sort of condition which has been transmitted sexually. It also means that no matter which term you use, your doctor, gynecologist, or STD specialist will have no problem understanding the meaning behind your words.

While some organizations and medical practitioners are slowly transitioning to the term STI, other organizations, particularly those engaged in outreach activities providing awareness and education, continue to use the word STD. This is due to the familiarity of the term combined, meaning that even those who have not heard about the switch from STD to STI will be able to find and understand the given information. Others encourage the transition or use both terms to make information easier to find.