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Arizona: Class Teaches Abstinence to Men in Recovery

March 25, 2003

At the Salvation Army rehabilitation center in south Phoenix, about 30 men discuss whether to have sex or abstain until marriage. In this place of clean starts where drug users and alcoholics try to turn their lives around, these grown, experienced men deal with the stuff of high school sex education classes. For some, it may be the first time they hear real information about sex, rather than what they learned on the streets.

Sponsored by the Arizona Department of Health Services Office of Women and Children's Health, the eight-week Abstinence Until Marriage program is attended mostly by low income and unmarried men. Margaret Manchester, a nurse with Arizona State University's Community Health Services Clinic in Scottsdale, developed the curriculum five years ago. "We teach the students to start valuing themselves again. If we can help raise their self-esteem and their self-worth, they will have a better chance of living healthy lives in the future," said Manchester.

After a discussion about HIV/AIDS, values and virtues, including chastity, are brought up. The program recommends that the men wait a year before dating again. Those already in relationships are encouraged to be monogamous. "Abstinence is a choice for a period of time in your life," Kim Vana, an ASU nursing professor, told the group. "When you're coping with recovery, you don't need the additional stress," she added.

The men showed visible discomfort after viewing a slide show on STDs. By the time Manchester asked, "What is the worst thing that can happen to you if you practice abstinence?" it does not seem like a bad idea to some in the group. Whichever decision the men make after completing the course, Manchester said they know it is a choice and now have the information they need to make it.

Back to other CDC news for March 25, 2003

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Adapted from:
Arizona Republic
03.17.03; Karina Bland

This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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