What is the difference between STI and STD?
Often the terms Sexually Transmitted Infection and Sexually Transmitted Disease are used interchangeably. But there are key differences. An infection happens when a virus, bacteria, or parasite enters your body, and your immune system kicks in to fight it. Disease occurs when the infection causes symptoms. Because not all infections turn into diseases, testing is important if you are sexually active or have recently become pregnant. With early detection and correct treatments, STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections) can be curable. Unfortunately, though, this is not always the case.
How can STIs be treated?
When caught early, many STIs (like gonorrhea and chlamydia) can be treated through antibiotics. However, some, like HPV (human papilloma virus), cannot be treated; Only symptoms of HPV can be managed. Moreover, research shows that some types of STIs (like gonorrhea) are becoming resistant to the antibiotics developed to combat these infections, and the pipeline for new drugs is not keeping up with the drug-tolerant strains of infections.
How can STIs impact pregnancy?
Many people do not know they are infected because STIs often have no symptoms. If you or your partner has had multiple sexual partners, it is important for your health and the health of your preborn child to get tested for STIs. If you are infected and do not receive treatment, there are many serious risks for both you and your baby. In fact, both chlamydia and gonorrhea can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID is an infection that may cause permanent damage to the fallopian tubes, uterus, and surrounding tissues. This damage from the disease may result in chronic pain, ectopic pregnancy, or infertility. Untreated, 10-15% of women with chlamydia will develop PID.
Even if you are not currently infected, if you continue to be sexually active during pregnancy, you could contract an STI or STD. Not engaging in sexual contact with another person is the only 100% effective, preventative measure against STIs and STDs.
Why is this important to us, and why should it matter to you?
Research tells us that people ages 15-24 account for half of the 26 million new STIs in the U.S. each year. That number is significant, considering that Americans in that same age range make up just 27% of the sexually active population. In 2018, people ages 15-24 represented a substantial portion of all those with chlamydia (62%), gonorrhea (43%) and syphilis (22%).
Many sexually transmitted infections are present asymptomatic, so it can be easy for someone to go undiagnosed. When left untreated, STIs can lead to serious health problems. Infertility, pregnancy complications, poor birth outcomes, and an increased risk of acquiring new or transmitting existing STIs, especially HIV, are just a handful of these complications. Looking at the research above proves to us that prevention, testing, and treatment are needed now more than ever. If you need to schedule a test for an STI or STD, please contact your primary health care provider, Linn County Public Health, or Eastern Iowa Health Center.
If you would like to learn more about STIs, safe sexual practices, or sexual relationships, connect with us!