Your STI Questions Answered!

This week is STI Awareness Week and we thought it would be a great time to answer some common questions about STIs.

What is the difference between STDs and STIs?

The simple answer is they are the same thing. STI stands of sexually transmitted infection, and STD stands for sexually transmitted disease. We mostly use the term “STI” now because it is more accurate and less stigmatizing. An infection is the presence of a virus or bacteria in someone’s body, versus a disease is the symptoms and conditions caused by that infection.

Many people with an STI have no symptoms for a long time- so we want to treat the infection before it causes a disease. Disease sometimes also sounds scarier to some people than infection and STIs are nothing to be afraid of.

How do you prevent STIs?

The best way to prevent STIs is abstinence, or not having sex. If someone does have sex, the best way to prevent STIs is to use condoms (internal  or external).

Remember, you can find free condoms near you and learn how to use a condom!

Having open conversations with your partners about your STI risk and getting tested also can also help prevent STIs. If you test positive for an STI, it is important to follow the directions of the health care provider about how to treat the STI so you can prevent passing it to other people. Some STIs are curable, meaning you can take a medication and they go away. Other STIs are not curable but they are treatable.

How do I get tested for STIs?

When it comes to getting tested for STIs there are a few options. Teens in certain counties may be able to order a Home STI Test Kit to test for STIs at home through the mail. Any teen can get tested at the doctor or clinic near them.

Remember it is important to be honest with your doctor or health care provider when they ask you questions so they can determine which STI tests are right for you.  

How much do STI tests cost?

STI tests are FREE! They are covered by insurance and if you don’t have insurance or don’t want to use your insurance, there are programs to make the tests free.

Do some STIs affect different young people more than others?

Youth – especially youth of color and LGBTQ+ youth- are more likely to be exposed to an STI. This is due to the compounding effects of racism, homophobia, and transphobia.

Chlamydia is the most common STI among young people. According to the CDC, In 2020, almost two-thirds (61%) of all reported chlamydia cases were among people ages 15–24 years. HIV is also concern for young people, and half of minors with HIV do not know that they are HIV positive.

There proven methods to reduce risk and impact, such as condoms, testing, PrEP and PEP, but young people still need more meaningful access to information and care.

What are common misconceptions about STIs?

  • People believe that if they avoid certain kinds of sex, then they are "safe". You can get an STI from any type of sexual contact, including oral sex.
  • People assume that they will be able to tell who has an STI by looking at them. However, the most common symptom of an STI is having no symptoms, so you will never know who has an STI without getting tested.  
  • People think if someone has an STI it means something about them, like they have had a lot of partners or don’t take care of themselves. This isn’t true. Anyone can get an STI the first time they have sex and many STIs are more common than people think.

All of this is why it is important to get tested and have open conversations with your partner. And if you find out someone you know has an STI, support them instead of judging them. Stigma makes it harder to prevent STIs.

If you are interested in getting tested for STIs, find a clinic near you!

Have questions we didn't answer?

Let us know on Instagram @teensourceorg and we will answer them all week!