STD vs. HIV: What’s the Difference?

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for informational and educational purposes only. Please consult with your doctor for any medical advice or concerns.


Difference between HIV and STD

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) are two distinct health concerns that affect millions of people worldwide. While both are transmitted through sexual contact, they differ in their nature, detection methods, and treatment options. Let’s delve into the differences between STDs and HIV, including their detection and treatment approaches.

What is an STD?


STDs, also known as sexually transmitted infections (STIs), are a group of infections caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites that are transmitted through sexual activities. Common STDs include chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis, genital herpes, human papillomavirus (HPV), and trichomoniasis. STDs can cause various symptoms, such as genital sores, discharge, burning sensations, and pain during urination, but some infections may be asymptomatic.

What is HIV?

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It is a virus that attacks the immune system, specifically targeting CD4 cells (T-helper cells), which play a crucial role in helping the body fight off infections. HIV weakens the immune system over time, making it difficult for the body to defend itself against various infections and certain cancers.

If left untreated, HIV can progress to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), the advanced stage of the disease, where the immune system becomes severely compromised, leading to life-threatening opportunistic infections and illnesses. 

HIV is primarily transmitted through unprotected sexual contact, sharing of contaminated needles (for example, those used by intravenous drug users), or from mother to child during childbirth or breastfeeding. 

Detection and Testing

Early detection is crucial for both STDs and HIV to prevent complications and ensure timely treatment. Different tests are available for each:

STD Testing: STD testing typically involves obtaining a sample of bodily fluids (urine, blood, or swabs) to check for the presence of the infection. Depending on the specific STD, the tests may include chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis, herpes, HPV, and more. Many STDs can be screened through blood tests, while others may require specific swabs from genital or oral areas.

HIV Testing: HIV testing involves a blood test that detects the presence of HIV antibodies or the virus itself. Rapid tests can provide results within minutes, making early detection easier. Regular HIV testing is essential, especially for those engaged in high-risk behaviours, to ensure early diagnosis and timely access to treatment and support.

Treatment Options

STD Treatment: STDs caused by bacteria, such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea, and syphilis, can be treated and cured with appropriate antibiotics. Viral STDs, such as genital herpes and HPV, can be managed but not fully cured, focusing on symptom control and reducing transmission risk.

HIV Treatment: HIV can be managed with antiretroviral therapy (ART), a combination of medications that suppress the virus and slow its progression. ART not only improves the quality of life but also reduces the risk of transmitting HIV to others. With effective treatment, people living with HIV can lead healthy and fulfilling lives.


STDs and HIV are distinct health concerns, each with its own set of detection methods and treatment options. Early testing and prompt treatment are critical for managing both conditions and preventing potential complications. STD testing and screening are available readily at STD clinics in Singapore. Regular screening services can play a pivotal role in promoting sexual health and well-being. It’s essential for individuals to prioritise their sexual health, practise safe behaviours, and seek medical advice if they suspect exposure to STDs or HIV.

Disclaimer: We have attempted to provide full, accurate and up to date information in this blog, based on current medical evidence and opinion. However, information and advice may vary from different sources, and over time. If you have any further questions, see your doctor for a more accurate diagnosis of your concerns.

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Frequently Asked Questions


When should I go for STD screening?

You should consider screening if you have symptoms of a possible STD, if you have had a recent risky exposure (unprotected sex with a casual partner), or both.

Can I get STDs from oral sex?

Yes, you can. The common misconception is that oral sex is not considered ‘real’ sex and therfore has no risk but the opposite is true. Often oral sex is performed without protection and this is why infections such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea can pass on through oral sex.

Can STDs be cured?

Thankfully the majority can be cured but there are some such as Herpes and HIV that can be treated but not cured. This is why prevention is better than cure and ensuring safe sex goes a long way to reduce your risks.

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