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An abortion is the termination of a pregnancy and can be either spontaneous (miscarriage or stillbirth) or induced.


The delaying of sexual activity and/or intercourse.

Abstinence-only education

Abstinence-only sexuality education exclusively promotes abstinence as the best way to prevent pregnancies and STIs.  Many programs promote abstinence-until-marriage. Most abstinence-only education curricula provide only negative information about contraception or no information at all.


Advocacy is a set of targeted actions directed at key decision makers in support of a specific policy or funding issue.


Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. AIDS is the last stage of HIV, a potent virus that systematically destroys a person’s immune system and ability to fight off infections.


Anti-Prostitution Loyalty Oath (also known as the Anti-Prostitution Pledge). The U.S. government requires all organizations that receive HIV/AIDS funding to have an organization-wide policy explicitly opposing prostitution.

“ABC” model

Abstain, Be faithful, and use Condoms correctly and consistently. This has been the model for prevention of sexual transmission of HIV that has been used by PEPFAR programs.

Birth control

The ability to prevent unintended pregnancy and control the timing and spacing of desired pregnancies.   Often used to refer to contraceptive pills.

Comprehensive sex education

Comprehensive sex education addresses both abstinence and age-appropriate, medically accurate information about contraception. Comprehensive sex education is also developmentally appropriate, introducing information on relationships, decision-making, assertiveness, and skill building to resist social/peer pressure, depending on grade-level. (Advocates for Youth)

Comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights

CHANGE’s research indicates three essential components of sexual and reproductive health care: family planning, sexual health, and maternal health. Attention to sexual and reproductive rights and to gender-based violence must be integrated throughout. Comprehensive sexual and reproductive health programs must address health across the life cycle, providing services and programming appropriate to each stage of life. This includes comprehensive sex education for young people, youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services, family planning and maternal health care for those in their reproductive years, and care for post-menopausal women.

Find out more about comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights

Dual protection

Refers to protection from both unintended pregnancies and STIs during sexual intercourse/activity.  This can be achieved, for example, by using condoms or combining two methods of contraception such as a hormonal of birth control along with a male or female condom. 

Emergency contraception (EC)

A method of contraception to avoid pregnancy after a failure in primary contraceptive (condom, female condom, the pill, etc) or lack of contraception results in unprotected sexual intercourse.  EC can be taken up to 72 hours after the unprotected sex, but works more effectively the sooner it is taken.  Contrary to many beliefs, EC does not prevent ovulation, fertilization or implantation.


The ability, or the process of developing the ability, to achieve one's full potential in society and shape one's life according to one's own aspirations. The process of empowerment involves changing existing power relations and the forces that marginalize women and other disadvantaged sections of society. (IPPF)


Faith-based organization

Female condom

As opposed to the male condom, which is placed on a penis, the female condom is inserted into a woman’s vagina, thus preventing pregnancy and/or the transmission of STIs, HIV/AIDS. Click here for more information about female condoms. For more information visit CHANGE’s Prevention Now! Campaign website. 


The ability of men and women to reproduce successfully.


Female genital mutilation. A traditional practice that involves cutting away parts of the female external genitalia, or other injury to the female genitals, for cultural or other non-therapeutic reasons, rendering intercourse and childbirth painful and potentially hazardous. It is usually carried out by traditional practitioners under unhygienic conditions. Also referred to as female genital cutting or female circumcision.


Gender-based violence. In 1993, The United Nations General Assembly adopted the definition of violence against women as “any act that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual, or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life. It encompasses, but is not limited to: physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring in the family, including battering, sexual abuse of female children in the household, dowry-related violence, marital rape, female genital cutting and other traditional practices harmful to women, non-spousal violence and violence related to exploitation; physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring within the general community, including rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment and intimidation at work, in educational institutions and elsewhere; trafficking in women and forced prostitution; and physical, sexual and psychological violence perpetrated or condoned by the state, wherever it occurs.”


Gender refers to the economic, social and cultural attributes and opportunities associated with being male or female in a particular point in time (World Health Organization).

Gender equity

Gender equity is the application of fairness or justice in all gender issues. This applies both to the composition of power structures and to social divisions of labor.

Global Gag Rule

In place under every Republican president since 1985, the Mexico City Policy (Global Gag Rule) stipulates that nongovernmental organizations receiving U.S. assistance cannot use non-U.S. funds to inform the public or educate their government on the need to make safe abortion available, provide legal abortion services, or provide advice on where to get an abortion. The policy did allow for exemptions in the cases of rape, incest, and the life of the mother, but not for a woman’s physical or mental health.


A movement that is driven by a community.

Helms Amendment

The Helms Amendment was first enacted in 1973 and states that, “No foreign assistance funds may be used to pay for the performance of abortion as a method of family planning or to motivate or coerce any person to practice abortions.” USAID has interpreted this amendment to prohibit U.S. funding of abortions that would preserve the physical or mental health of a woman, yet allow it for victims of rape or incest, or to save a woman’s life. However, the U.S. has never funded any programs that include abortion services, even in these legally permitted cases.


Human Immunodeficiency Virus. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS.  HIV is transmitted through sexual contact, blood, and from mother to child.

Human-rights framework

A human-rights framework respects the dignity, autonomy and agency of a all people. This type of framework is driven by the belief that every human being is entitled to the same rights and that these inalienable rights enable individuals to live a healthy and dignified life. Human rights are essential to positive health and development outcomes.


The United Nations’ International Conference on Population and Development was held in Cairo in 1994, and marked a dramatic shift from a focus on controlling population growth to a focus on the rights and health of women.  ICPD’s 20-year Programme of Action (PoA) sought to include sexual and reproductive health in primary health care, and expand reproductive health services beyond the realm of family planning to include sexual health, maternal and child health, the empowerment of women and HIV/AIDS services.


Injecting drug user

Kemp-Kasten Amendment

The Kemp-Kasten Amendment was enacted for the first time in 1985 as part of a United States appropriations law. The provision prohibits foreign aid to any organization that the administration determines is involved in coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization. Using a broad interpretation of the Amendment, the Bush administration determined that the United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) presence in China could be construed as involvement in China’s coercive policies. As a result, the United States withheld funding for UNFPA under President Bush from 2002 to 2008. President Obama directed U.S. Congress to restore its funding in 2009.

Male condom

A thin sheath that covers the entire penis during intercourse or other sexual activity preventing the passage of STIs and sperm.

Maternal mortality

The death of a woman or girl during pregnancy, or within 42 days of delivery. The reasons include complications such as haemorrhage, unsafe abortion, infection, eclampsia and obstructed labour. Many of the victims, sad to say, lack access to adequate antenatal care, which encapsulates the close monitoring of mother and child's health and development of the fetus during pregnancy.


Millennium Development Goals. The Millennium Development Goals are an ambitious agenda for reducing poverty and improving lives that world leaders agreed on at the Millennium Summit in September 2000. The MDGs are drawn from the actions and targets contained in the Millennium Declaration that was adopted by 189 nations-and signed by 147 heads of state and governments during the Summit. For each goal one or more targets have been set, most for 2015, using 1990 as a benchmark.

  1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  2. Achieve universal primary education
  3. Promote gender equality and empower women
  4. Reduce child mortality
  5. Improve maternal health
  6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
  7. Ensure environmental sustainability
  8. Develop a Global Partnership for Development


Currently, the medical community is working to develop effective microbicides, which are substances placed in the vagina or the rectum that may be able to reduce the transmission of HIV and other STIs.  Effective microbicides have not yet been developed.

Modern contraception

Modern hormonal and non-hormonal methods of preventing pregnancies, such as condoms, the pill and IUDs (intrauterine device).


Men who have sex with men.


Orphans and vulnerable children.


U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. PEPFAR was originally introduced in 2003 by then-President George W. Bush and remains the largest commitment in history by any nation to combat a single disease. In 2008, the Plan was reauthorized for  $48 billion over five years (2009 to 2013), with the goals of preventing 12 million new infections; treating 3 million people living with AIDS and caring for 12 million people, including 5 million orphans and vulnerable children.

Find out more about PEPFAR


Person living with HIV/AIDS.


Prevention-of-mother-to-child-transmission of HIV.  MTCT can occur during gestation, delivery, and through breast feeding. 


A deliberate plan of action to achieved specific goals.

Reproductive health

Reproductive health is defined in the ICPD Cairo Programme of Action as, “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease of infirmity, in all matters relating to the reproductive system and to its functions and processes.”

Reproductive justice

Reproductive justice is the complete physical, mental, spiritual, political, economic, and social well-being of women and girls, and will be achieved when women and girls have the economic, social and political power and resources to make healthy decisions about their bodies, sexuality and reproduction, and for their families and communities. (Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice, 2005)

Reproductive rights

Reproductive rights are defined as the ability and freedom to decide, plan and realize one’s reproductive health.  This is achieved with free and voluntary family planning services where men and women can make informed-choices regarding their reproductive needs and desires for the present and the future.

Sexual rights

Sexual rights are defined as the right to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality, including: sexual and reproductive health, free of coercion, discrimination and violence; the right to have access to safe, effective, affordable and acceptable methods of family planning of their choice, as well as other methods of their choice for regulation of fertility which are not against the law; and the right of access to appropriate health-care services that will enable women to go safely through pregnancy and childbirth and provide couples with the best chance of having a healthy infant. Sexual rights also include the right to sexuality education and bodily integrity, and the right to pursue a satisfying, safe and pleasurable sexual life.


Sexually transmitted infection. A sexually transmitted infection is a bacterial infection or virus that is transmitted through sexual activity (STIs can also be transmitted through blood and from mother to child).

Unsafe abortion

An induced abortion conducted either by persons lacking the necessary skills or in an environment lacking the minimal medical and hygienic standards, or both. “ Unsafe abortion is a major cause of maternal mortality, therefore increased access to family planning services is critical to reducing the number of unplanned pregnancies and unsafe abortions.  In 2003, nearly 50 percent of all abortions worldwide were unsafe procedures. There are an estimated 8.5 million women who have unsafe abortions and need subsequent care for related health complications.  About 67,000 of these women die from these complications. (Guttmacher Institute)


United States Agency for International Development.

Voluntary family planning

Also known as informed choice, refers to a client’s decision whether or not to use contraception after receiving comprehensive information about the risks, benefits, advantages and disadvantages of all contraceptive methods. (IPPF)


Groups that oversee practices of those in power for the purposes of holding decision makers accountable to standards or accepted principles, in this case, as it pertains to human rights and sexual and reproductive health.

Woman-centered approach

A woman-centered approach to health is a human rights-based approach that seeks to ensure that every individual has access to basic health, education, and other social services, including sexual and reproductive health. It provides a framework for prevention, care, and treatment that recognizes the roles women play in their communities, as well as the risks and obstacles each woman faces in accessing her own health care.1 A woman-centered approach does not ignore or diminish the health needs of men and boys, but rather recognizes and addresses the disparate needs and conditions of women. With women at its center, it provides a plan for ensuring that every member of society has equal access to basic health services.