What’s The Difference Between STI and STD?

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A few weeks ago, I posted part 1 of my upcoming series Sexual Infections, and during that research, I discovered that a lot of people didn’t know the difference between STIs and STDs, myself included. I began to realize that STI is one of those abbreviations that wrongly gets used interchangeably with STD because they are similar terms; however, they are different, and that’s what I’m going to discuss today! 

The Difference Between STI and STDs

An STI is different from an STD in one way. The I in STI stands for infection, while the D in STD stands for disease. Which makes the question at hand; what’s the difference between an infection and a disease? 

An infection happens when microorganisms (viruses, bacteria, funguses, etc) enter the body and begin to multiply. In most cases (regarding STIs), infections are asymptomatic and, if left untreated, they can develop into diseases. For instance, if the moment you become infected with Chlamydia, you get treated for it, you might never deal with the effects of it developing into a disease. Stoping it right in its tracks! 

A disease, on the other hand, occurs when the infection progresses and begins to damage cells; this is usually when signs and symptoms begin to appear. To put this into perspective, if chlamydia (assuming it is asymptomatic) is contracted and is left untreated it can develop into a pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), and then and only then will find out you have it. 

To clarify this with an analogy, think of zombies. When a zombie bites a person, they are infected. The infection might cause slight things like a fever, but when left untreated, it develops into something much worse. In this case, they become a zombie, and they have the “zombie disease.” Though not all hope is lost because in some iterations, you can cut off the affected area and be fine. Just like treating an STI!

Why Is It Important to Know the Difference?

It’s important to know the difference between STI and STD because if an infection is treated as soon as possible, it can stop the long-term issues that are caused by the diseases they can progress into. That’s it! And to me, that’s a major reason. 


I understand that the use of the term STI in place of STD has been adopted by many to avoid the stigma surrounding STDs, but using a different name only avoids stigma, it doesn’t cure it. Without proper education, STI is going to become the new STD in terms of social perception. On top of it all, the terms are being used incorrectly. As a community, I think it’s best to change how we view those with STDs instead.


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