Classification

Until the 1990s, STDs were commonly known as venereal diseases: Veneris is the Latin genitive form of the name Venus, the Roman goddess of love. Social disease was another euphemism.

Sexually transmitted infection is a broader term than sexually transmitted disease. An infection is a colonization by a parasitic species, which may not cause any adverse effects. In a disease the infection leads to impaired or abnormal function. In either case the condition may not exhibit signs or symptoms. Increased understanding of infections like HPV, which infects most sexually active individuals but cause disease in only a few has led to increased use of the term STI. Public health officials originally introduced the term sexually transmitted infection, which clinicians are increasingly using alongside the term sexually transmitted disease in order to distinguish it from the former.

STD may refer only to infections that are causing diseases, or it may be used more loosely as a synonym for STI. Because most of the time people do not know that they are infected with an STD until they are tested or start showing symptoms of disease, most people use the term STD, even though the term STI is also appropriate in many cases.

Moreover, the term sexually transmissible disease is sometimes used since it is less restrictive in consideration of other factors or means of transmission. For instance, meningitis is transmissible by means of sexual contact but is not labeled as an STI because sexual contact is not the primary vector for the pathogens that cause meningitis. This discrepancy is addressed by the probability of infection by means other than sexual contact. In general, an STI is an infection that has a negligible probability of transmission by means other than sexual contact, but has a realistic means of transmission by sexual contact (more sophisticated means—blood transfusion, sharing of hypodermic needles—are not taken into account). Thus, one may presume that, if a person is infected with an STI, e.g., chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital herpes, it was transmitted to him/her by means of sexual contact.

The diseases on this list are most commonly transmitted solely by sexual activity. Many infectious diseases, including the common cold, influenza, pneumonia, and most others that are transmitted person-to-person can also be transmitted during sexual contact, if one person is infected, due to the close contact involved. However, even though these diseases may be transmitted during sex, they are not considered STDs.

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