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You Say STD, I Say STI, We Say STD/STI

STD vs. STItomato or ToMAto.

There are a lot of word shortcuts out there--acronyms, texts, and tweets-- here's 2 more for U:

  • STD = Sexually Transmitted Disease
  • STI = Sexually Transmitted Infection

You say to-ma-to, I say to-MAH-to.

And some people say STI and some say STD. In the tomato/tomahto song, we know both are referring to the same thing -- tomatoes.  In the case of STD and STI, the terms might mean different things -- or they might not!  How's that for confusing?  

We say STD/STI

STI and STD are sometimes usedinterchangeably; WiRE uses them interchangeably.  We use them to refer to any illness that is transmitted through sexual contact -- a sexually transmitted aftershock. 

While the term STD has been around a long time, STI is becoming increasingly popular.  Some people think that this newer term helps minimize embarrassment about these illnesses; it's less harsh to talk about an infection than a disease. However, many people don't know what STI refers to.

And many people believe the terms refer to different things. According to researchers (including one of our own WiRE Team members) about 50% of young people think that these terms have different meanings.

There are at least two reasons people think they are different:

  • Curability: Some people use the term STD to refer to illnesses that can't be cured (like genital warts) and STI to refer to illnesses that can be cured (like Chlamydia).
  • Symptoms: Some people differentiate between the terms based on symptoms. Those illnesses that don't have symptoms are called STIs and then once (and if) symptoms develop the illness is then called a "disease."

So, sending clear communication signals can be tough when meanings aren't crystal clear.

Why does WiRE choose to say STD/STI?

Because we don't want there to be any confusion about the fact that for us they mean the same thing -- so we stick them together:  STD/STI.  We think using them together helps make it clear that we use both of these terms to refer to any illness that is transmitted sexually while also raising awareness of the fact that many people are starting to use the term STI in place of STD. 

You say STD, I say STI...who cares?

When u GYT, don't IDK, ask about STD/STI, K?

Translation:

When you get yourself tested, don't settle for saying, I don't know, ask what your provider means when they say "sexually transmitted disease" or "sexually transmitted infection," OK?

Well you might -- because it can directly affect your own personal health care. Some people use STD and STI interchangeably (like we do at WiRE) and some people don't. And that can be CONFUSING.  Consider these scenarios:

  • Lillian thinks that the terms STD and STI mean different things. She thinks that STDs are the illnesses that can't be cured and STIs are the ones that can be cured. She goes in for her annual gynecologist exam and her provider Barb, happens to use the terms STD and STI interchangeably. Barb tells Lillian that she is going to test her for STDs. Now, Lillian thinks she is only being tested for the incurable illnesses, not the curable ones like Chlamydia. Lillian's embarrassed to ask Barb any questions and now she is totally stressing out because she wanted to be tested for Chlamydia too, particularly because she knows that it could cause problems with having kids some day.
  • Pedro just started seeing this new guy and wants to get tested for STDs especially HIV before they sleep together. Right on Pedro. He makes an appointment, goes to the clinic, and his provider tells him he is going to test him for STIs. Pedro thinks to himself...did he just say STIs? What are STIs? I know what STDs are but, are they the same as STIs? I hope so. Maybe I should ask? Wait a minute, does STI testing include testing for HIV? That's really what I want to know. I am sure it does. Wait...does it?  

So....it does matter. Sending clear signals when it comes to sexual issues always matters.

There is no way of knowing what your health provider is thinking unless you ask. SO ASK. Don't assume that STI or STD means the same to anyone else as it does to you. When you see your health care provider for testing say: "Are you testing me for STIs? What do you mean by that? What are you testing me for?"

ASK and BE SURE. You deserve peace of mind. 


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