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All plants and animals that reproduce sexually develop sexually transmitted infections (STIs). They are very common among humans — up to 75 percent of sexually active women and men will get an STI of some kind. Unfortunately, many people consider having STIs to be a moral issue. The stigma and shame some people feel because of this may lead them to neglect taking good care of their sexual health. Please don’t let embarrassment be a health risk for you. Speak frankly and openly with your clinician about your sex life and your sexual health concerns. Some clinicians won’t ask — so take charge and speak up.

Medically, an STI is an infection before and after it causes symptoms and becomes a disease. An STD — sexually transmitted disease — is an infection that has symptoms. Some organizations prefer using the term STD. Others, including Planned Parenthood, prefer the term STI because STIs can be passed from one person to another — even when there are no symptoms. We want women and men to understand that they are just as likely to get an STI from someone with no symptoms as from someone with symptoms. It’s also a lot easier to prevent getting most STIs than it is to treat most STDs.

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