What’s the Difference between STIs and STDs?
If you’ve visited this website before, you know we talk very openly about sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
The simple truth is there are many types of both out there, which means many people get them. So you don’t have to freak out if you’re diagnosed with one. Another simple truth is that lots of people don’t know about STIs and STDs (or are unsure about what’s true and what’s not). That’s totally normal as well, but we believe information about sex and birth control is empowering.
You may be wondering what the difference is between an STI and an STD. Good question! Here’s what you need to know. And for additional answers to your specific questions about STIs and STDs, make an appointment at your nearest The Right Time health center.
“STI” refers to any bacteria, virus, microbe (like trichomoniasis), or parasite (like pubic lice) that you can get from having sex and can cause disease. Many people with STIs do not have any signs or symptoms, or if they do, they are mild and not noticeable, so it is important to get tested for infections regularly.
“STD” refers to when an infection becomes a disease. STIs don’t always cause disease, but all STDs begin their life as an STI. For example, most HPV infections go away on their own, but if it causes genital warts or becomes cervical cancer, it has become a STD.
So, while there is a medical difference between an infection and a disease, your health care provider can treat or manage both. Barrier methods of birth control, like condoms and internal condoms, are a great way to protect yourself against STIs (you can also use these while also using an IUD or the implant, which you can get for free or at a low cost at your nearest your nearest The Right Time health center).
Updated March 2021
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