STI vs. STD: Know The Difference
Published Oct 26, 2020
Try to remember when you first heard the term sexually transmitted disease (STD). You were probably sitting through an awkward and mediocre sexed class back in middle school, no? Whether it’s pop culture’s depiction of STDs or the poor handling of sex education, society has developed a preconceived stigma against STDs, viewing them as dirty and deplorable. All of a sudden, we’re introduced to this new term sexually transmitted infection (STI), and think, “but aren’t they the same thing?
Before we bring out our torches and pitchforks against the nasty STIs and STDs of the world, let’s thoroughly educate ourselves about them first. This article will explain the fundamental difference between STIs and STDs and why we should get rid of this ridiculous stigma against them.
STI vs. STD
You often hear these words used these days interchangeably. When people hear someone tested positive for herpes, they automatically think, “Oh, he has an STD.” But is it an STD, though?
An STI, or a sexually transmitted infection, is passed from one individual to another predominantly through physical or sexual contact or bodily fluids. Physical or sexual contact includes kissing, along with vaginal, oral, and anal sex. These infections may be bacterial, parasitic, or viral and can linger and grow in your body. Some medications may rid your body of some of these infections, but others can stay lifelong.
So, how does that differ from an STD?
Realistically, there’s only one difference between STIs and STDs. Sexually transmitted infections don’t exhibit symptoms, but they automatically become a sexually transmitted disease when they do. That’s the only thing that separates them.
Why is STI becoming a more prominent term than STD?
There are two reasons for this: stigma and accuracy. People shudder when they hear the term STD and wouldn’t even dare touch it with a ten-foot pole.
But aside from the social aspect of it, STIs are far more accurate. See, when you use the term “disease,” you’re saying that the person is showing obvious signs and symptoms of his or her condition. Often, this isn’t quite the case.
STIs can become STDs
Not all diseases start as infections, but in this case, they do. Once you expose your body to pathogens like bacteria, parasites, and viruses, they can enter and multiply, becoming an infection.
Before you have an STD, you must first have an STI. You can think of an STI as the starting point towards an STD. But in a good number of cases, STIs never progress to become an STD. So, when you use the term STD, it’s often misleading and inaccurate because you can have an STI and be completely asymptomatic for life, taking the infection with you to the grave.
An example of an infection not leading to disease is HPV. HPV has a chance of clearing up on its own without any cause for concern. However, it can become an STD in genital warts and several cancers, most notably cervical.
Testing for STIs and STDs
Once you’re infected with an STI, it lingers in your body, interacting with your immune system. This infection then undergoes what is called an incubation period. An incubation period is a time between exposure and when your body addresses the pathogens by producing antibodies.
Before getting tested for an STI, you have to wait out this incubation period to get reliable results. STI tests will rely on the presence or lack of antibodies to determine whether an infection is present. As for STDs, you may notice a few symptoms, which we’ll get to in the next section.
There isn’t one definite incubation period for all infections and diseases. Some have incubation periods of a few days, while some may take several years before showing symptoms. Here’s a list of the incubation periods of the most common STIs.
- HIV: 2-4 weeks
- chlamydia (CT): 7 to 21 days
- gonorrhea (GC): 1 to 14 days
- syphilis: 3 weeks to 20 years (depending on specific type)
- hepatitis A: 15 to 50 days
- hepatitis B: 60 to 150 days
- hepatitis C: 2 to 26 weeks
- oral herpes: 2 to 12 days
- genital herpes: 2 to 12 days
- HPV: 1 month to 10 years (depending on specific type)
- trichomoniasis: 5 to 28 days
As to the frequency of testing, experts recommend following these screening and testing guidelines.
Common STD symptoms
The most common STD symptoms exhibit themselves in the genital area. Here are some of the typical signs you should watch out for:
- Bumps, sores, and lesions in the genital area, anus, buttocks, and thighs
- Unnatural vaginal discharge
- Penile discharge
- Genital bleeding
- Painful or burning urination
- Pain and tenderness in and around your genitals
- Swollen or painful lymph nodes
- Genital or anal rashes
What should I do if I test positive for an STI or STD?
The first and most responsible thing to do is inform your sexual partners that you tested positive so that they may get tested. This won’t be the most comfortable conversation to have, but it’s the best thing to do to ensure that the infection will not continue to spread.
The next thing you should do is seek treatment. Many people live their lives comfortably despite living with an STI or STD. You will need to consult with a medical physician about the next steps and medications you will have to take.
Abstinence – Abstinence is easily the most effective method in preventing STIs. However, it isn’t the most practical nor convenient method. We understand that many adults are sexually active, so we’d recommend the next alternative in preventing STIs.
Barrier methods – When used correctly, condoms are some of the most effective ways of preventing STIs, including HIV. You can read more about condoms and their effectiveness in this article.
Vaccines – Vaccines play a crucial role in effectively preventing various infections. Hepatitis and HPV vaccines are some of the available ones we have today, with an HIV vaccine in the works.
Now, we know the clear difference between STIs and STDs. We hope you understand that STIs and STDs can affect even the most careful of people. Let’s continue educating ourselves and others about sexual health to eliminate this unnecessary stigma against STIs and STDs.
Suffering From Herpes Type 2 Outbreaks?
Herpezine is a specially formulated all-natural mixture of ingredients proven to help relieve and prevent HSV2 outbreaks when used as directed. This safe, over-the-counter Herpes treatment contains both traditional homeopathic and scientifically proven anti-viral ingredients such as L-Lysine HCI and Bee Propolis. Learn more about Herpezine on our website and visit our pricing page to purchase your first bottle.
About The Author
Terrence Tan Ting is an industrial engineer by profession but a full time writer by passion. He loves to write about a wide range of topics from many different industries thanks to his undying curiosity.