Abstinence, be faithful, use a condom

Abstinence, be faithful, use a condom, also known as the ABC strategy or abstinence plus of sex education, is a sex education policy based on harm reduction which modifies the strict approach of abstinence-only sex education by including education about safe sex and birth control methods. 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.

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 more palatable to many African governments and U.S. funding agencies who answer to a majority Christian voter base.

The ABC approach has notably been used in African countries like Botswana and Uganda.


Whilst the pillars of the ABC approach can reduce HIV transmission, the interpretation of the three elements causes controversy in international health policy making. For example, the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief has been criticised for prioritising "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. (United States Government Accountability Office, 2006; Cohen J. Tate T. 2005)

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