Abstinence may have different meanings for different people. In order for abstinence to be 100 percent effective, you should avoid any sexual contact that puts you at risk for STIs, HIV, and/or unplanned pregnancy.

Individuals may choose to be abstinent for many reasons:

  • Not ready for a sexual relationship
  • Waiting for the right person
  • Supporting personal or religious beliefs
  • Focusing on other achievements (i.e., school, student organizations, career)
  • Avoiding the risk of unplanned pregnancy, STIs, and HIV

Some individuals may choose to be abstinent, regardless of whether or not they have been sexually active in the past. Abstinence is a personal choice that should be respected.

Abstinence, when practiced correctly, is the most effective way to keep safe from unplanned pregnancy, STIs, and HIV. Abstinence requires self-control and commitment. If you want to practice abstinence, ask yourself a few questions:

  • How do you define abstinence? Are there some types of sexual intimacy that you are comfortable with?
  • When do you plan to talk to your partner about your choice to be abstinent? It's best to discuss your decision before you are in a sexually charged situation—it can be hard to talk about your sexual limits when either partner is aroused.
  • What values or reasons guide you to choose abstinence?
  • Can you stand up to pressure? There are some situations that might tempt you to have sex (i.e., peer pressure, drug use, alcohol use). Are you willing to avoid these situations to stick with your decision?

Abstinence works best when both partners agree to it and maintain open communication. For more information on communication download the How Can I Communicate Better fact sheet, provided by loveisrespect.org.

Sources: Love Is Respect, Planned Parenthood, Women's Health, CDC, MayoClinic

Disclaimer: This site is a resource for IUP students. It is not intended to replace consultation with your medical providers. IUP Health Service staff members are available to treat and give medical advice to IUP students. Visit the IUP Health Service website for more information.

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