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The question  ‘What’s the difference between STIs and STDs?’ is one we hear all the time here at Play Safe.

STI, the commonly used term here in Australia – stands for Sexually Transmitted Infection. STD, meanwhile stands for Sexually Transmitted Disease. The terms are often used interchangeably, but they actually mean different things.

The definition of an STI

As we already know, STI stands for Sexually Transmitted Infection not Disease. And that last word makes all the difference. Because when we’re talking about most of the viruses passed on via sex, they’re actually infections, not diseases. That’s because sexually transmitted infections can be asymptomatic, but diseases can’t be.
There’s been a big shift in recent years towards using the term STI and not STD, because it covers a lot more of the things we’re talking about – syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, herpes etc.

What does asymptomatic mean and why is it important?

Asymptomatic means that there are no symptoms. And most common STIs often show no symptoms at all. Diseases however, all have symptoms. That’s why getting tested regularly is so important. Because a lot of the time, you simply won’t know if you have an STI or not. 
Another reason the medical community has moved away from the term STD is because of the stigma attached to the word ‘disease’. Most STIs are very easily treated or managed, so the term disease is a pretty big one for something that – medically at least – is seen as very minor.

Do you have any questions about your sexual health? Visit our forum or ask Nurse Nettie.