Abstinence, be faithful, use a condom

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Abstinence, be faithful, use a condom, also known as the ABC strategy or abstinence-plus sex education, also known as abstinence-based sex education, is a sex education policy based on a combination of "risk avoidance" and harm reduction which modifies the approach of abstinence-only sex education by including education about the value of partner reduction safe sex and birth control methods. Abstinence-only sex education is strictly to promote the sexual abstinence until marriage, and does not teach about safe sex or contraceptives. The abstinence-based sex education program is meant to stress abstinence and include information on safe sex practices. In general terms, this strategy of sex education is a compromise between abstinence-only education and comprehensive sex education. The ABC approach was developed in response to the growing epidemic of HIV/AIDS in Africa, and to prevent the spread of other sexually transmitted diseases . This approach has been credited by some with the falling numbers of those infected with AIDS in Uganda, Kenya and Zimbabwe, among others. From 1990 to 2001 the percentage of Ugandans living with AIDS fell from 15% to 5%.[1] This fall is believed to result from the employment of the ABC approach, especially reduction in the number of sex partners, called "Zero-Grazing" in Uganda.

Abstinence-based sex education can include issues of human relationships, the basic biology of human reproduction, safe sex methods and contraceptives, HIV/AIDS information, and masturbation in place of sex. It recommends sexual abstinence outside marriage as an ideal, having only a single long-term sexual partner. The use of condoms and other safe sex practices is advocated only if it is not possible to remain with a single sexual partner. Advocating this ideal, whilst pragmatically dealing with the fact that abstinence only sex education is ineffective by itself, has made the ABC approach popular with many African governments and relief agencies.[2]

The ABC approach has notably been used in African countries. Versions of this approach have been used for abstinence-only sex education in Uganda, among others.[3] Its positive impact has been confirmed by a 2009 Stanford University survey.[4]


Abstinence, be faithful, use a Condom consists of three components:

  • Abstinence: The ABC approach encourages young adults to delay "sexual debut" (age of first sexual intercourse), or to use abstinence until marriage, the most effective way to avoid HIV infection, as advocated as the ideal by Christianity. The program develops skills for practicing abstinence and encourages participants to adopt social norms that support abstinence.[citation needed]
  • Be Faithful: In addition to abstinence, the ABC approach encourages participants to eliminate casual or other concurrent sex partners and to practice fidelity within their marriages and other sexual relationships. This reduces exposure to HIV..[citation needed]
  • Character building: is what the C stands for in the original Catholic approach. As young girls are being approached by "sugar daddies", they stop using condoms. Having several lovers leads to a highway for Aids. Young people are being thought to stand firm and stick with one partner. Catholic Church view, Use a Condom: The Catholic Church has publicly stated its opposition to condom use. However, in 2010, during an interview, Pope Benedict XVI addressed the use of condoms and his view that condoms are the "first step" of morality[5]
  • Use a Condom:

Growth and popularity in the United States[edit]

Starting primarily in the 1980s and 1990s, the popularity of the "abstinence plus" sex education program grew into a common method of teaching students, in the United States, about sexuality. The program understood that it would not be possible to stop all teenagers from having sex, but still stressed that abstinence is the only guaranteed way of avoiding unwanted pregnancies and contraction of STDs.[6] The most important message to teens from the program comes from Joycelyn Elders, President Clinton's first Surgeon General, that "if they have a baby there is an 80% likelihood they'll be poor, ignorant, and slaves for the rest of their lives."[7] In 1997 the Department of Health and Human Services established a "Girl Power!" campaign focusing on girls ages 9–14 which encouraged abstinence as a form of empowerment.[8] For those who would reject abstinence, or have early sex forced upon them, abstinence-only messages provided little to no hope to prevent pregnancy and spread of disease. To account for this, some states included information about contraceptives in their sex education programs along with encouragement for students to be abstinent. Of the states that, in 1995, required abstinence education, fourteen also included the use of contraception within the curriculum.[9]

In September 1995, Hawaii passed the Abstinence-Based Education Policy. (Policy # 2110). It is meant to support abstinence and help develop skills to continue abstinence, help teens who have had sexual intercourse to abstain from further, and to provide teens with information on contraceptives and methods for preventing sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy.[10]

In 1996, the federal government increased funding for state abstinence education as an inclusion of the Welfare Reform Act, creating Title V, and the abstinence-only-until-marriage program.[11] The increase in abstinence funding created incentives for states to maintain these rulings, which over 20 states have.

HIV/AIDS is one of the leading causes of deaths in the United States and 1 in 300 people are living with HIV/AIDS. Around one million people have HIV/AIDS in the United States. More than 524,000 people in the United States have died of HIV/AIDS. Around 40,000 people are infected each year.[citation needed]


The usefulness of the ABC approach is highly debated. The three elements are interpreted differently by different actors and critics argue that often abstinence and faithfulness are unduly promoted over condoms and other measures such as education, female empowerment and making available modern antiviral drugs.[12] For example, the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief under President George W Bush has been criticised for seeming to prioritize "A" and "B" over "C" within its funding criteria. "C" activities may only be directed at "high-risk" groups, and not to the general population.[13] However, donor funding has always been allocated overwhelmingly to condoms, reflecting clear US and European policy priorities, including under George W Bush.[citation needed]


Critics argue that in many countries women are frequently infected by their unfaithful husbands while being faithfully married, and thus women who follow the recommendations of ABC promoters face an increased risk of HIV infection.[14] Condoms, needles, and negotiation is a proposed alternative approach as is SAVE (Safer practices, Available medication, Voluntary testing & counselling and Empowerment through education).[15]

Critics furthermore allege that the strategy overlooks the epidemic's social, political, and economic causes and "vulnerable populations", e.g. sex workers and "those who lack the ability to negotiate safe sex" as well as risk groups such as homosexuals and intravenous drug users. However, most infections in Africa occur outside these vulnerable groups, and ABC was a US donor policy only for the "generalized" epidemics in Africa. Murphy et al. found that Uganda's ABC approach empowered women. "Remarkably, in the 2000–2001 Uganda DHS, 91 percent of women said they could refuse sex with their husbands if they knew their husbands had STIs, a somewhat higher percentage than in several other African countries" [16]

Critics also argue that using the word "abstinence," then teaching about safe sex and contraceptives, can be contradictory.[17]


Pope Benedict XVI has criticised some harm reduction policies with regards to HIV/AIDS, saying that "if the soul is lacking, if Africans do not help one another, the scourge [of HIV] cannot be resolved by distributing condoms; quite the contrary, we risk worsening the problem".[citation needed] Whilst this position has been widely denounced for misrepresenting and oversimplifying the role of condoms in preventing infections,[18][19] there has been expert scientific opinion and evidence supporting it.[20]

Archbishop Gabriel Charles Palmer-Buckle of Accra has stated that "the Catholic Church [offers] three methods to help solve this problem of AIDS in Africa: "A", abstain; "B", be faithful; "C", chastity, which is in consonance with traditional African values. Those Planned Parenthood people are only talking about condoms. By the way, they know full well that the condoms devoted to Africa are sub-standard."[21] There are no reliable sources that condoms distributed in Africa are inferior to those elsewhere in the world.[22]

A major proponent of the ABC approach, author and member of Presidential Advisory Council on HIV and Aids in 2003-2007, Harvard University's Edward C Green, stated “Advocates of the ABCs often use the term to mean a primary emphasis on abstinence/delay of sexual debut and faithfulness/partner reduction, with condom use being a secondary but necessary strategy for those who do not or cannot practice abstinence or fidelity." Furthermore, Green in his seminal book Rethinking AIDS Prevention (Praeger 2003) argued that the success in Uganda, where prevalence feel 21% to 6% between 1989-2003 was largely due to the "B" of the ABC approach, fidelity or reduction in multiple partners. This conclusion was validated and expanded to underscore the dangers of concurrent sexual partners by Helen Epstein, in The Invisible Cure [23]


  1. ^ Green, Edward C.; Halperin, Daniel T.; Nantulya, Vinand; Hogle, Janice A. (2006-05-11). "Uganda's HIV Prevention Success: The Role of Sexual Behavior Change and the National Response". AIDS and Behavior. 10 (4): 335–346. doi:10.1007/s10461-006-9073-y. ISSN 1090-7165. PMC 1544373Freely accessible. PMID 16688475. 
  2. ^ Green, Edward C. (2003). Rethinking AIDS Prevention (book). Preager. OCLC 612065556. [page needed]
  3. ^ "The ABC of HIV prevention". AVERT. 
  4. ^ Bendavid, Eran; Bhattacharya, Jayanta (2009). "The President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief in Africa: An Evaluation of Outcomes". Annals of Internal Medicine. 150 (10): 688–95. doi:10.1059/0003-4819-150-10-200905190-00117. PMC 2892894Freely accessible. PMID 19349625. Lay summaryFreeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (April 6, 2009). 
  5. ^ Bengiano, Guiseppe; Carrara, Sabina; Filipi, Valentina; Brosens, Ivo (2011). "Condoms, HIV and the Roman Catholic Church". Reproductive Biomedicine Online. 22: 701–709. 
  6. ^ Ashbee, Edward (2007). The Bush Administration, Sex and the Moral Agenda. New York: Manchester UP. pp. 102–36. ISBN 978-0-7190-7277-2. 
  7. ^ "Illegitimate rhetoric- Clinton administration's policies towards sex education", National Review (15 August 1994)
  8. ^ "THE NATIONAL STRATEGY TO PREVENT OUT-OF-WEDLOCK TEEN PREGNANCIES". aspe.hhs.gov. Retrieved 27 January 2014. 
  9. ^ Besharov, Douglas J.; Gardiner, Karen N. (1997). "Sex Education and Abstinence: Programs and Evaluation". Children and Youth Services Review. 19 (5–6): 327–39. doi:10.1016/S0190-7409(97)00021-2. 
  10. ^ "Abstinence-Based Education Policy". Hawaii State Government. Retrieved 17 July 2013. 
  11. ^ Carr, Jillian B.; Packham, Analisa (2016). "The Effects of State-Mandated Abstinence-Based Sex Education on Teen Health Outcomes". Health Economics. doi:10.1002/hec.3315. 
  12. ^ Barnett, Tony; Parkhurst, Justin (2005). "HIV/AIDS: Sex, abstinence, and behaviour change". The Lancet Infectious Diseases. 5 (9): 590–3. doi:10.1016/S1473-3099(05)70219-X. PMID 16122682. 
  13. ^ United States Government Accountability Office, 2006; Cohen J. Tate T. 2005.[full citation needed]
  14. ^ Sinding, Steven W. (2005). "Does 'CNN' (Condoms, Needles, Negotiation) Work Better than 'ABC' (Abstinence, Being Faithful and Condom Use) in Attacking the AIDS Epidemic?". International Family Planning Perspectives. 31 (1): 38–40. doi:10.1363/ifpp.31.38.05. JSTOR 3649501. PMID 15888408. 
  15. ^ "de beste bron van informatie over anerela. Deze website is te koop!". anerela.org. Retrieved 2012-03-04. [full citation needed]
  16. ^ Murphy, Elaine M.; Greene, Margaret E.; Mihailovic, Alexandra; Olupot-Olupot, Peter (2006). "Was the "ABC" Approach (Abstinence, Being Faithful, Using Condoms) Responsible for Uganda's Decline in HIV?". PLoS Medicine. 3 (9): e379. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030379. PMC 1564179Freely accessible. PMID 17002505. 
  17. ^ Cohen, Jonathan; Tate, Tony (2006). "The Less They Know, the Better: Abstinence-Only HIV/AIDS Programs in Uganda". Reproductive Health Matters. 14 (28): 174–178. doi:10.1016/S0968-8080(06)28249-1. JSTOR 25475267. PMID 18446994. 
  18. ^ Doodling, Yankee (2009). "The papal position on condoms and HIV". BMJ. 338: b1217. doi:10.1136/bmj.b1217. PMID 19321547. 
  19. ^ Roehr, B. (2009). "Pope claims that condoms exacerbate HIV and AIDS problem". BMJ. 338: b1206. doi:10.1136/bmj.b1206. PMID 19321545. 
  20. ^ Green, Edward C. (29 March 2009). "The Pope May Be Right". The Washington Post. 
  21. ^ Allen, John L. (October 14, 2009). "Ghanaian archbishop says church has failed Africa". National Catholic Reporter. 
  22. ^ "South Africa plays down faulty condom scare". AIDS weekly plus: 10–1. 1999. PMID 12294480. 
  23. ^ {The Invisible Cure: Africa, the West, and the Fight Against AIDS. Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2007 |

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