1. How does HIV get transmitted? What happens to the body once someone contracts the virus? What groups are most at risk? After a brief discussion, share the following facts with students about HIV/AIDS. Make sure that students understand the difference between HIV and AIDS. HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that severely damages the immune system by infecting and destroying certain white blood cells. AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) is the final, life-threatening stage of infection of HIV. Simply because someone tests positively for HIV does not mean they have AIDS. You may want to print out these facts or display them on an overhead projector.
  • History: The first case of AIDS in the United States was documented in 1981. This disease was most prevalent among homosexual men in the 1980s, but the spread of AIDS among that group has slowed in the 1990s. However, the rate of AIDS in other groups, such as heterosexual men and women and people who inject drugs, continues to rise.
  • AIDS in the United States: An estimated 800,000 to 900,000 people in the United States are currently infected with HIV (Centers for Disease Control).
  • Risk: Of the 40,000 new AIDS cases reported in the United States each year, 42 percent are men who have sex with men, 33 percent are men and women infected by heterosexual sex, and 25 percent were infected by injection drug use (IDU).
  • Youth: Up to 50 percent of all new HIV infections are among those under age 25. It is estimated that 20,000 young people are infected with HIV every year. That means two young Americans between the ages of 13 and 24 are contracting HIV every hour.
  • Women: Women account for 30 percent of new AIDS cases. (They represented only 7 percent of all AIDS cases in 1985.)
  • Minorities: African Americans account for more than half (54 percent) of new AIDS cases, and Hispanics account for 19 percent. (African Americans and Hispanics represent only 13 percent and 12 percent of the general population, respectively.)

Ask students to share what they know about contracting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Review the different ways that HIV is transmitted:

  • Unprotected sexual contact with an infected person
  • Transmission from an infected woman to her fetus or baby
  • Through needle sharing among intravenous drug users
  • Rarely, through accidents involving needle-stick injuries and other blood exposures of healthcare providers (Healthcare workers now wear gloves, masks, and other protective clothing during many examinations and procedures.)
2. Now talk about ways that people can avoid getting and spreading AIDS. Examples:
  • Avoid sexual contact with anyone who is or might be infected with HIV, or abstain from sexual contact.
  • Practice protected sex with a person who is infected with HIV or whose infection status is unknown.
  • Drug users should seek help to stop taking drugs and should never share hypodermic needles, syringes, or other injection equipment.
  • Women may take AZT during pregnancy and avoid breastfeeding to reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to the fetus or baby.
  • If you have put yourself in a high-risk situation, get tested for HIV to avoid spreading it to others.
3. On the board or on a piece of newsprint, write the following groups. These are some of the different populations that can be at risk for AIDS if they do not behave responsibly:
  • Homosexual men
  • Heterosexual men
  • Heterosexual women
  • Adolescents
  • Drug users
  • Minority youth
  • Pregnant women
  • Homeless and poor people
  • Prisoners
  • Armed Forces
    4.Divide students into pairs or small groups and have each pair choose one of the populations you have listed to learn more about its risk for getting HIV/AIDS. They will find more statistics, background, and prevention resources for each population at Who Gets AIDS?. As students research a population, have them consider the following questions:
    • What are the specific dangers for this population?
    • How has the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS changed for this population over the past several years? (Provide statistics when possible.)
    • What behaviors put this population at risk for HIV/AIDS?
    • How could members of this population change their behavior to avoid getting or spreading HIV/AIDS?
    5.Finally, ask each pair to create a public awareness campaign for that audience. Encourage them to be creative and consider the tone, language, and medium that would be most appropriate for that audience. For example, they may create a public service announcement for teens, a brochure for obstetrics offices, a needle exchange program for public health clinics, a poster for clubs frequented by homosexual men, a Web page for young professional men and women, or a bulletin board for their school hallway.
    6.Have partners present their campaigns to the class. They should discuss why they chose the approach they did for their audience.