When you hear the terms STD and STI, do you think they are the same thing, or different entities?
Many people tend to go down the route of thinking they are the same thing, just a different term, but they really are different in some ways. STD stands for Sexually Transmitted Disease, and STI is Sexually Transmitted Infection. These terms used to be lumped together as VD, Venereal Disease, a few years ago, but this has changed to differentiate their subtleties.
A STD generally has some symptoms, whereas an STI often doesn’t, and this is what keeps them apart. There is a key issue here in terms of testing, because if you are needing to claim back on your health insurance, you may find that testing or an STI isn’t covered, where as an STD may be. Talk about grey area.
Generally speaking, testing for either is based upon the following factors:
- Signs and STD symptoms, if there are any
- The likelihood of exposure to an STD or STI, based on the person’s sexually history
- In order to exclude either one, e.g. routine testing in pregnancy
One example of an STD is HIV, which is a disease which will have symptoms, and may be tested also on the basis of the person’s sexual history. This STD is not curable, but can be managed with medications. An STI example is chlamydia, which is a very silent, and sometimes hidden condition. When left untreated, chlamydia has the ability to leave the sufferer infertile, and testing is generally only done if the person is suffering symptoms, e.g. in the later stages of the infection, or based on their history/routine testing in pregnancy.
The fact that there is so much stigma attached to STDs and STIs means that many people put off being tested, or simply ignore the possibility altogether. The general rule is that if you have more than one sexual partner, you should aim to be tested twice per year. Many people don’t do this however, out of ignorance or embarrassment. There are may ways to be tested for different STDs/STIs these days, including home testing kits, and a huge amount of awareness is placed in education, trying to put the issue to the fore, and to eradicate the associated embarrassment/stigma.
Only through eradicating this feeling of shame can we really aim to make STDs/STIs less of an embarrassing subject, and therefore cut down on the number f people who ignore the issue and potentially put themselves at risk of developing severe symptoms in later life. Risky sexual behaviour means a much higher risk of infection of some kind, however we also know that you can be as careful as can be, and accidents can happen. There is no shame in getting yourself tested, and putting your health first – this is a message we need to get out there.