The Difference Between STDs and STIs

STDs vs. STIs. There’s a lot of confusion between these two terms, and we’re here to set the record straight once and for all. You ready for this? Okay, here we go.

STD stands for sexually transmitted disease—but you probably knew that part already. “STD” is the most commonly used term for the collection of medical infections that are transmitted through sexual contact. But that’s just the thing. People who become infected, don’t always experience any symptoms or have their infection develop into a disease. That’s where the more modern term “STI” comes from.

STI stands for sexually transmitted infection, and many people, mostly the medical community, have begun transitioning from “STD” to “STI” in an effort to clarify that not all sexually transmitted infections turn into a disease. For instance, the vast majority of women who contract HPV (human papilloma virus) will not develop the resulting disease cervical cancer. In fact, most cases of infection will clear up within two years. Additionally, people who use this term believe that it also eliminates some of the shame that’s been associated with the acronym “STD.”

So, the long and short of it is this: STD and STI both essentially stand for the same thing. The distinction is that an STI doesn’t always mean you have an STD. Make sense? If you want to see a master list of STDs and learn how they are transmitted, check out our Uncovering STDs tool for all kinds of interesting info.