Placing Equality, Respect, and Dignity at the Center of Sexuality and HIV Education

The Landscape

Sexuality and HIV education can help adolescents develop the capacity for healthy, respectful relationships and protect themselves from unwanted and unsafe sex, unintended pregnancy, and sexually transmitted infection. “However,” says Population Council social scientist Nicole Haberland, “only a few curricula actually demonstrate an effect on unintended pregnancy or on sexually transmitted infections. We see the strongest results with those curricula that emphasize gender and power issues. Unfortunately, most curricula still do not address these issues.”

The Paradigm Shift

To support more effective sexuality and HIV education, the Council published It’s All One Curriculum: Guidelines and Activities for a Unified Approach to Sexuality, Gender, HIV, and Human Rights Education. This resource for curriculum development was created together with six other nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and was edited by Haberland and Council consultant Deborah Rogow. It provides a rationale, content, and sample activities for placing gender and rights at the center of sexuality and HIV curricula—both as stand-alone modules and integrated with topics such as relationships, puberty, and condom use.

It’s All One is user-friendly and designed to be used flexibly, so that educators in diverse settings can easily understand the content and extract the level of detail they need to meet local goals. For example, educators can use this resource to help ensure that their curricula increase adolescents’:

  • ability to make responsible decisions and act upon their own choices;
  • ability to participate in society and exercise their human rights;
  • critical thinking and overall educational achievement;
  • sense of control over their lives; and
  • sense of sexual well-being.

To reinforce the shift to this new approach, the Council provides policymakers with evidence supporting the effectiveness of this strategy and helps build educators’ capacity to present this subject matter to students.

The Lasting Impact

It’s All One has been in high demand since its first English publication in 2009 (a second, updated version was published in 2011). It has been translated into Spanish, French, Bangla, and Chinese, and is being adapted and translated into Arabic. Requests have come from more than 150 countries and every state in the United States—from government agencies, international NGOs, and community organizations reaching young people.

“Using It’s All One has greatly improved our program performance, such that many people are now asking us to expand our activities,” said Folasade Ofurune, Executive Director, Health Education and Empowerment Initiative (HEDEN), Nigeria. “In the area of critical thinking, it has helped the young people we work with to see their lives and what they do with them are in their hands.”

It’s All One has been used in a wide variety of settings. The broadest reach is through ministries of education and school districts in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the United States. Several thousand community-based organizations use It’s All One. For example, it is being used with rural Mayan girls in Guatemala; young people in Haiti living with HIV; girls’ empowerment programs in southern Nigeria; young ethnic Tibetans in China; and members of the Mexican Scouts Association.

Educators are also using It’s All One in very conservative regions: in strict Islamic settings in northern Nigeria and Aceh Province in Indonesia, in polygamous communities in Utah, and in abstinence-only schools in Nevada. Teachers in these settings report that It’s All One is opening up safe ways to talk about sensitive issues like coercion, power, gender equality in relationships, and human rights.

The resource is being used in Population Council programs for adolescent girls in Bangladesh and Guatemala, and its success is being evaluated by the Council and other researchers in Bangladesh and Haiti.


International Sexuality and HIV Curriculum Working Group. 2009 and 2011. It’s All One Curriculum: Guidelines and Activities for a Unified Approach to Sexuality, Gender, HIV, and Human Rights Education. Eds. Nicole Haberland and Deborah Rogow. New York: Population Council.


UK Department for International Development (DFID), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the Ford Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Libra Foundation, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation