STD or STI – What’s the Difference?

young woman pondering the answer to a question

When it comes to your sexual health, knowledge truly is power. Understanding key vocabulary empowers you to have more informed and productive conversations with healthcare professionals and your partner. A frequent point of confusion is the difference between “sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)” and “sexually transmitted infections (STIs).”


For years, STD was the standard term used in clinics and health classes around the country. It still has a role in the conversation, but people are a bit more intentional about how they use it now. You see, the “D” in STD stands for “disease,” and that suggests a disorder that produces specific physical signs or symptoms. Many sexually transmitted disorders, however, produce no clear indications in most people.


To better reflect the true nature of most sexually transmitted disorders, healthcare professionals and organizations now prefer the more accurate and inclusive term, STI – at least in the early stages. The “I” in STI stands for “infection.” A person can be infected with a sexually transmitted virus or bacteria without ever displaying symptoms, or symptoms may be so mild that they are overlooked.

An STI can develop into an STD when and if symptoms arise, and normal body function is disrupted.

Most Common STIs

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates there are nearly 20 million new sexually transmitted infections each year. More than 50% of those infections occur in people ages 15-24.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common STI in America, with more than 14 million new infections per year. For young people, chlamydia and gonorrhea are next on the list, accounting for more than 2 million infections combined.

Lack of symptoms in most infected people contributes to the spread of these infections, as people unknowingly pass the infection to their partners. That’s why it’s so important for people who are sexually active to be tested regularly, even when they feel and look fine.

In Gainesville, Sira offers free confidential STI testing for women and men alike. We test for chlamydia and gonorrhea, and a Registered Nurse privately delivers the results. If you need treatment, or testing for additional STIs, Sira can refer you to one of our community partners.

Contact Sira today at 352-377-4947. We’re here to listen, to help and to connect you with the resources you need.

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