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Medically Accurate Abstinence-Only Programs without Fear and Shame

A Step in the Right Direction: Medically Accurate Abstinence-Only Programs without Fear and Shame

SIECUS believes in teaching about abstinence. Our Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education: Kindergarten- 12th Grade state that one of the four primary goals of sexuality education is to “help young people exercise responsibility regarding sexual relationships, including abstinence [and] how to resist pressures to become prematurely involved in sexual intercourse.” Abstinence, however, is just one of 39 sexual health topics included in the Guidelines. SIECUS believes that programs that teach only abstinence are, at best, insufficient. 

Moreover, many of the abstinence-only-until-marriage (AOUM) programs that are eligible for federal funding not only ignore many important topics but also rely on fear and shame, contain inaccurate information, and promote biases and stereotypes about gender, family structure, and sexual orientation. We believe these programs have no place in our nation’s schools.

Unfortunately, in many parts of the country, states or school boards still insist teaching abstinence to the exclusion of other topics. SIECUS often receives requests from advocates and educators in these communities who are fed up with fear-based abstinence programming and want another option. Listed below are six abstinence-only programs that do not include messages of fear and shame. These programs may be options for educators, parents, advocates, and community members stepping stones toward and the ultimate goal of high quality comprehensive sexuality education. 

Health Smart Middle School: Abstinence, Puberty & Personal Health
Health Smart High School: Abstinence, Personal & Sexual Health

ETR Associates

These programs for middle school and high school students are part of a seven-subject set of health education curricula. The Abstinence subject set includes a teacher’s guide, student workbook, Health Facts books, and an optional assessment tool. The middle school program discusses puberty, reproductive anatomy, and healthy relationships as well as abstinence. The high school program also includes information on the reproductive system, the media, and peer pressure. This program addresses sexual health but does not cover contraception or safer sex.

2004; $91.99 Teacher Guide and CD; ETR, 100 Enterprise Way Ste G300, Scotts Valley, CA 95066-4200; Phone: 800/321-4407; Website:

Healthy Sexuality: An Abstinence-Based Curriculum for Middle Schools
RMC Health

This curriculum, which focuses on abstinence, includes activities on sexual terminology and puberty, defining and maintaining healthy sexuality, resisting peer pressure, and finding and using support. It consists of 11 sequential lessons aimed toward grades 6–8 in middle/junior high schools. The complete program includes a teacher manual, student worksheets (available in Spanish), video, and poster set. An optional condom lesson is also included. 

Healthy Sexuality uses small and large-group activities, role-playing, brainstorming and cooperative-learning techniques in order to “empower students to take personal responsibility for their sexuality.” The program focuses on five main components that spell POWER: 1) “Protect myself and other” which discusses the risks of sexual activity; 2) “Own my rights and responsibilities,” or the right to say no; 3) “Wait” 4) “Express myself clearly” and 5) “Respect myself and others,” referring to communicating in a “considerate way.”

2009; $100 teacher’s manual, $200 curriculum set; RMC Health, 7525 West 10th Ave, Lakewood, CO 80214; Phone: 303/239-6494; Fax: 303/239-8428; Website:

Making a Difference! An Abstinence-Based Approach to HIV/STD and Teen Pregnancy Prevention
Loretta Sweet Jemmott, John Jemmott III, and Konstance McCaffree

Using a cognitive-behavioral approach to motivate sexual behavioral change, the Making a Difference! curriculum focuses on building confidence, positive attitudes, and negotiation skills in order to help adolescents to reduce their risk of STDs, HIV and unintended pregnancy by abstaining from sex. The program is geared toward middle school students ages 11–13 and community-based education programs that serve these young people. 

Making a Difference! has eight modules that fall into four main categories:
1) understanding one’s goals and dreams in relation to sexuality; 2) the causes, transmission and prevention of HIV, STDs and unintended pregnancy; 3) personal and social beliefs about abstinence, HIV, STDs and pregnancy; and 4) pressures, confidence and negotiation skills to abstain from sex. The basic package includes the facilitator’s manual, activity sets, and video clips; the full curriculum package also includes two videos. 

This program does not address safe sex practices and suggests that teachers only allow discussions of condoms if students ask about them. However, the program emphasizes that facilitators “should not denigrate condoms, speak of them only in terms of failure rates, or exaggerate condom failure.” Making Proud Choices is the related program that does include discussion of contraception and condoms. 

A school edition of Making a Difference! with shorter sessions to accommodate school scheduling is also available.

2005; Basic set $429; ETR, 100 Enterprise Way Ste G300, Scotts Valley, CA 95066; Phone: 800/321-4407; Website:

Making Sense of Abstinence
Bill Taverner and Sue Montfort

Designed as a supplement to a more comprehensive sexuality education curriculum, this manual includes 16 lessons about abstinence for use with high school-aged students. The lessons focus on providing information, exploring attitudes and personal values, practicing decision-making skills, and teaching communication and methods of abstaining beyond “just say no.”

2004; $39; Planned Parenthood of Greater Northern New Jersey, Available at:

Promoting Health Among Teens! Abstinence Only
Loretta Sweet Jemmott, John Jemmott III, and Konstance McCaffree

The Promoting Health Among Teens! Abstinence Only curriculum addresses puberty, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV, and pregnancy prevention. The curriculum uses interactive activities including talking circles, brainstorming, roleplays, DVDs, and games that focus  on the knowledge, attitudes, and skills that encourage and assist young people in implementing abstinence in their relationships. Promoting Health Among Teens! Comprehensive is the more comprehensive version of this curriculum.

A school edition of Promoting Health Among Teens! Abstinence Only with shorter sessions to accommodate school scheduling is also available. 

2011; Basic set $559; ETR, 100 Enterprise Way Ste G300, Scotts Valley, CA 95066; Phone: 800/321-4407; Website:

Boys and Girls Clubs of America

SMART Moves education program, or Skills Mastery And Resistance Training, is designed to promote adolescent abstinence from sexual activity and substance abuse. The program utilizes a team approach to sexuality education by using SMART Moves staff, parents, community members, and peers to help lead discussions and activities around strengthening skills to abstain. The program uses discussion, role-playing, resistance/refusal practice, and analysis of media influence and peer pressure in order to help participants develop the assertiveness and confidence they need to abstain from sex.

Call the Boys and Girls Clubs of America for pricing; 1275 Peachtree Street, NE, Atlanta, GA 30309; Phone: 404/487-5700; Email:; Website:, SMART Moves page: