Refraining from or delaying the onset of willing participation in oral, anal, or vaginal sex, or sexual/genital contact that could result in pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Abstinence-Only Education

Teaches that abstaining from sex is the only correct option outside of marriage. Abstinence-only curricula do not teach about safe sex practices like using contraception to prevent pregnancy, using condoms to prevent sexually transmitted infections, or getting tested for STIs regularly. Also referred to as Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage and Abstinence-Centered Education.

Academic Content Standards for Comprehensive Health and Physical Education

Adopted in 2009 by the Colorado Department of Education, the standards help school districts implement the most comprehensive, age-appropriate, medically accurate and evidence-based health education, including sexuality education, available to students and provide guidelines for the school grade by which this information should be completed.


The ability of a person to receive health care services based on availability of supplies, ability to pay for services, and availability of transportation.


A person in the developmental stage of adolescence, which ranges from ages 10 to 24 years. This term is used interchangeably with teen, teenager, youth, or young person.


Topics, messages and teaching methods suitable to particular ages or age groups, based on developing cognitive, emotional and behavioral capacity typical for the age or age group.

Anti-Discrimination Laws

Laws that mandate all people must be treated equally in school, work, politics, or consumer transactions regardless of age, sex, religious affiliation, ability, nationality, or body type. Some states also have laws that prohibit discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Askable Adult

Those adults that youth perceive as approachable and open to questions.

Barrier Method

Contraceptive methods that protect against pregnancy by placing a physical barrier between sperm and egg. Some barrier methods also protect against the transmission of STIs, such as condoms.


The assumption that only two genders exist – boy and girl. If a person identifies as solely a boy or a girl, they have a binary identity. Trans people may be binary as well.

Capacity Building Assistance

Information, support and/or trainings provided to partners to increase their ability to select, implement, evaluate and/or sustain programs and curricula.


A term for a person who’s assigned gender at birth is the same as their gender identity.

Colorado’s Healthy Youth Act

Colorado’s sexuality education law, HB07-1292, signed into law in 2007 and ensures that Colorado youth have access to comprehensive sexuality education that includes information on abstinence, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), the benefits and potential side effects of using contraception, parental involvement and family communication, safe relationships, and responsible decision making, including how alcohol and drug use impairs responsible and healthy decision making.

Comprehensive Sex Education

Teaches abstinence as the best method for avoiding STIs and unintended pregnancy, but also teaches about condoms and contraception to reduce the risk of unintended pregnancy and infection with STIs, including HIV. It also teaches interpersonal and communication skills that help young people explore their own values, goals and options.


The intentional prevention of conception/pregnancy through the use of various devices, agents, drugs, sexual practices, or surgical procedures.

Culturally Sensitive/Competent/ Relevant

The integration and transformation of knowledge about individuals and groups of people into specific standards, policies, practices, and attitudes used to increase the quality of services and, in so doing, produce better outcomes. Includes resources, references and information that are meaningful to the experiences and needs of communities of color, immigrant communities, LGBTQ communities, people with disabilities and others whose experiences have traditionally been left out of sexual health education, programs and policies.

Dating Violence/Abuse

A type of intimate partner violence or abuse that occurs between two people in a close relationship; can be physical, emotional, or sexual.

Emergency Contraception

A way to reduce the risk of pregnancy after unprotected vaginal intercourse or intercourse where the method of birth control failed. Emergency contraception comes in the form of pills commonly known as the “morning-after pill” even though it can be taken up to 5 days after intercourse.

Evidence-Based Interventions (EBIs) or Evidence-Based Programs (EBPs)

Programs that have been rigorously evaluated and demonstrate the ability to change sexual risk-taking behaviors.
Evidence-Based Programs: A program that:
  • Was evaluated using a rigorous research design, which includes:
  • Measuring knowledge, attitude, and behavior.
  • Having an adequate sample size.
  • Using sound research methods and processes.
  • Replicating in different locations and finding similar evaluation results.
  • Publishing results in a peerreviewed journal
  • Research has shown to be effective in changing at least one of the following behaviors that contribute to early pregnancy, STIs, and HIV infection: Delaying sexual initiation, reducing the frequency of sexual intercourse, reducing the number of sexual partners, or increasing the use of condoms and other contraceptives.


The degree to which a program is implemented as intended by the program developer. Variations from a program, including adaptations, impact the effectiveness of the program.

Gender Identity

A person’s sense of being male, female, or another gender, resulting from a combination of genetic and environmental influences. 

Health Disparities

Types of unfair health differences closely linked with social, economic or environmental disadvantages that adversely affect groups of people.

Health Equity

When all people, regardless of who they are or what they believe, have the opportunity to attain their full health potential. Achieving health equity requires valuing all people equally with focused and ongoing efforts to address inequalities. (Definition from Colorado Department of Health and Environment, used with permission. //

HIV/STI Education

Education that discusses how HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STI) are transmitted and how to protect yourself from becoming infected with HIV/STI. These courses may include information about safer sex and condom use.

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

A retrovirus that is recognized as the causative agent of Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS).


This term describe a person with reproductive or sexual anatomy that is outside of the typical definitions of male or female.

LARCs (Long Acting, Reversible Contraceptives)

Methods of birth control that do not require patient upkeep and are highly effective for long periods of time. Examples include Intrauterine devices (IUDs) and subdermal implants.


Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning

Life Skills

Behaviors that enable individuals to adapt to and deal effectively with the demands and challenges in life, including the ability to: make decisions, solve problems, think critically, clarify and analyze values, communicate, be assertive, negotiate, cope with emotions and stress, and feel empathy with others by being self-aware.

Logic Models

Important tools for mapping out how specific program activities will lead to the desired outcomes. Logic models help identify key behaviors to be changed and link them with the associated determinants that will be influenced among the youth to be served.


A survey instrument or individual questions on a survey designed to obtain information/data about the behavior and determinants being examined.

Medically Accurate

Information that is established through use of scientific methodology. Results are measured, quantified and replicated to confirm accuracy. Findings are based on published authorities upon which medical professionals generally rely, defined by 3 interrelated features: 1. Verification or support of research conducted under accepted scientific methods; 2. Publication in peer-reviewed journals; and, 3. Recognition as accurate and objective by mainstream professional organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Public Health Association, and government agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

National Sexuality Education Standards

Released in 2012, these standards provide clear, consistent and straightforward guidance on the essential minimum, core content for sexuality education that is age-appropriate for students in grades K-12.


Somebody or an idea that exists outside of the gender binary. There are many people who do not identify as either a boy or a girl. Non-binary people fit within the umbrella term of the transgender community.


The specific, measurable actions (or changes in actions) that are the desired outcomes for students who have completed your program.

Office of Adolescent Health (OAH)

The federal office that coordinates adolescent health programs and initiatives, including teen pregnancy prevention programs, and shares relevant adolescent health information to youth serving professionals and the general public.

Opt-In and Opt-Out Policy

School policies that typically pertain to sexuality education courses. These policies inform parents of the information to be taught and require that parents give permission (Opt-In) for their children to attend the program, or require that parents explicitly request that their children do not attend (Opt-Out.)

Outcome evaluation

The process of determining whether or not a program caused an improvement among its participants on specific areas of interest and by how much.


Evaluation of work by other people in the same field in order to maintain and enhance the quality of the work in that field.

Positive Youth Development

An approach that emphasizes the many positive attributes of young people and focuses on developing inherent strengths and assets to promote health. Positive youth development incorporates the following guiding principles into programs:
  • Strengths-Based: The approach focuses on positive physical and mental health, education, social, vocational, creative, spiritual and civic outcomes.
  • Youth Engagement: Youth have a positive sense of self and are connected to positive peers, adults and communities.
  • Youth-Adult Partnerships: Youth work with adults to make decisions for program and policy planning, implementation and evaluation.
  • Culturally Responsive: Adults and youth recognize and respond proactively to variations in backgrounds/ cultures including, but not limited to, ethnic, racial, linguistic, learning and physical abilities, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status and geographic location, to ensure inclusivity and equity.
  • Inclusive of ALL Youth: The approach is inclusive, not solely focusing on youth in at-risk environments or youth who exhibit risk behaviors.
  • Collaboration: Private and public agencies, state and local partners and the community, including families, work together to support youth.
  • Sustainability: Long-term planning that includes funding, capacity-building, professional development and evaluation exists for ongoing support of youth.

Process Evaluation

Assesses the degree to which a program is implemented as planned. It includes monitoring the activities, who participated and how often, as well as the strengths and weaknesses (quality) of the implementation.

Protective Factors

A personal or environmental characteristic that protects a person from risk of unintended health outcomes. Risk Factors: A personal or environmental characteristic that increases a person’s risk level for adverse health outcomes.

Safety Net

The supports in place for families and individuals to fill financial gaps to meet basic needs, including health care, food, employment, and child care.

Science-based Approach (SBA) or Science Based Program (SBP)

A method of choosing a sexual health program which uses demographic, epidemiological and social science to identify populations at risk, uses health behavior theory to guide the selection of risk and protective factors to be addressed, uses a logic model to link risk and protective factors with program strategies and outcomes, selecting programs that are evidence based or promising and conducting process and outcomes evaluation to adjust continued implementation.

Sex Positivity

The idea that healthy and consensual sex is a positive part of life.

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

Any infection transmitted by sexual contact, including HIV, chlamydia, genital herpes, genital warts, gonorrhea, syphilis, yeast infections, and some forms of hepatitis.

Sexual Risk Avoidance Education

An abstinence-based approach to sex education that focuses on avoiding sexual activity before marriage, based on the public health model used for drugs and underage drinking.

Sexual Risk-Reduction Education

Comprehensive sexual health education that provides information regarding abstinence, the risks of sexual activity, and methods (such as contraception) that can be used to reduce the risks of sexual activity.

Sexual Violence

Any sexual act that is perpetrated against someone’s will and encompasses a range of offenses: a completed nonconsensual sex act, an attempted nonconsensual sex act, abusive sexual contact or unwanted touching, and non-contact sexual abuse, threatened sexual violence, exhibitionism, or verbal sexual harassment.

Title IX

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance. The Title IX regulation describes the conduct that violates Title IX. Examples of the types of discrimination that are covered under Title IX include sexual harassment, the failure to provide equal opportunity in athletics, and discrimination based on pregnancy.

Title X

The Title X Family Planning program [“Population Research and Voluntary Family Planning Programs”] was enacted in 1970 as Title X of the Public Health Service Act. Title X is the only Federal grant program dedicated solely to providing individuals with comprehensive family planning and related preventive health services. The Title X program is designed to provide access to contraceptive services, supplies and information to all who want and need them. By law, priority is given to persons from low-income families.


An umbrella term for a person who’s assigned gender at birth is not the same as their gender identity.

Underserved Populations

A group of people who do not have equal access to health and health care services, in part due to socio-economic status, medical condition, physical ability, geography, literacy level, or a combination of these and other factors.

Youth-Adult Partnerships

Youth and adults working together with equitable input and decision-making power throughout the lifespan of the project.

Youth Advocate

An adult who acts in the best interests of the youth with whom they are working, and who supports the empowerment of all young people.

Youth Connectedness

Degree of closeness experienced by youth in relation to the environment around them, including their peers, family, community, and society.

Youth Friendly

Incorporates age-appropriate policies, procedures, and information. The goal of providing youth-friendly services and information is to increase the ability and likelihood of youth access in the future.


Beliefs held by one person, or a group of people. Values shape people’s opinions, actions, and ways of thinking and are often influenced by their family, religion, culture and life experiences.