Why STI sounds better than STD and the Real Difference Between the Two Terms
STD (as you likely know) stands for Sexually Transmitted Diseases and used to be the go-to blanket abbreviation. But then STI or Sexually Transmitted Infections became a part of our lingo as well. The transition was intentional to create a differentiation between the types since not all sexually transmitted infections actually develop into diseases. The term STI helps to make some these types of infections feel a little less serious, which has both good and bad implications.
The good thing about the ease-up on the word “diseases” is that the stigma of sexually transmitted stuff is automatically reduced.
You wouldn’t go around telling people that you have a disease when you’ve got a head cold because they’d assume something chronic and tragic was going on. Similarly, if you happen to catch chlamydia, you’re not diseased, rather, you have an infection that requires treatment and then it goes away. Even HPV which is technically a virus can go away on its own. Human papillomavirus can lead to serious cases of cervical cancer, but more commonly it does not.
A lessening of the stigma surrounding STD/Is can potentially make it easier to talk about, and talking about it is pretty much the only way to share knowledge and learn about taking the proper precautions.
Feeling shame can make people close up and shut down, and that’s the last thing that anyone should be doing as far as their health is concerned. People need to feel comfortable being honest with their doctors, seeking help when they need it, and discussing protection, and getting tested (or urging partners to do so). They also need to feel comfortable calling people up if they may have passed something along.
It’s not only damaging to think that STIs are uncommon but even more so if you think that you’re alone in having one.
According to the CDC, there are 20 million new cases of treatable STI cases reported every single year. Half of those cases occur in sexually active people between the ages of 15 and 24. More than half of all sexually active people will have an STI or STD at some point in their life. It’s pretty average and not something to be stigmatized, but it’s also not something to be taken lightly.
On the flip side, the possible downside to the stigma lifting is that people might be less likely to take STIs seriously.
If they’re so common and as times easily treatable, what’s the big deal? Well, they’re a big deal for a few reasons. For one thing, they’re not always that easy to treat. Infections can become resistant to antibiotics and people are really good at spreading these infections since they often don’t know that they have them. For another thing, just because one sexually transmitted infection is easy to treat that doesn’t mean that another is…and the risks of contracting HIV and serious diseases still exist alongside those less serious infections. Not to mention herpes which might require lifelong treatment. Also, infections of any kind should just never go without treatment. But the “less serious infections” can actually get really serious if they go untreated, especially for women.
Chlamydia and gonorrhea are two common STIs that can easily go undetected and if they do, a woman is at risk of developing pelvic inflammatory disease, which can lead to chronic pain and even infertility. Just because those infections aren’t proving symptomatic in the way a yeast infection may, that does not mean they’re acting peacefully in there. STIs happen every day and luckily most of them can be treated when people are paying attention and getting tested regularly.
This being said, the potential risks are still high. We really don’t need any more “super bugs” laughing in the face of our antibiotic options, that’s when the trouble would step up a notch. Get tested regularly, use protection, and never stop education yourself!
The ideal scenario is that people are aware of the risks out there and interested in having safe sex, coupled with a stigma-free openness to discuss all of it.
National Institutes of Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, n.d. Web. 21 Apr. 2017.
“EPublications.” Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Apr. 2017.