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For Educators:
Government Policy and Its Impact on HIV/AIDS
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Lesson Plan

This lesson is designed for social studies classes, grades 9-12.

Lesson Objectives

In this lesson, students will:
  • Examine the president's commitment to AIDS relief for Africa and the reasons for this initiative.
  • Analyze the history of U.S. funding for HIV/AIDS research, treatment, and prevention programs since the early 1980's.
  • Develop a position on future U.S. aid for HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention.
  • Articulate viewpoints in a policy debate.

Related National Standards

These standards are drawn from "Content Knowledge," a compilation of content standards and benchmarks for K-12 curriculum by McRel (Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning), at


Standard 8: Knows essential concepts about the prevention and control of disease

Language Arts

Standard 8: Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes
Standard 9: Uses viewing skills and strategies to understand and interpret visual media.
Standard 23: Understands the impact of significant political and non-political developments on the United States and other nations.
Standard 28: Understands how participation in civic and political life can help citizens attain individual and public goals
Historical Understanding
Standard 1: Understands and knows how to analyze chronological relationships and patterns.
Standard 2: Understands the historical perspective
Life Skills
Thinking and Reasoning
Standard 1: Understands and applies the basic principles of presenting an argument,
Standard 3: Effectively uses mental processes that are based on identifying similarities and differences.
Standard 5: Applies decision-making techniques.
Working with Others
Standard 1: Contributes to the overall effort of a group.
Standard 2: Uses conflict-resolution techniques Standard 3: Works well with diverse individuals and in diverse situations.
Standard 4: Displays effective interpersonal communication skills
Standard 5: Demonstrates leadership skills

Estimated Time to Complete Lesson

Two to three 50-minute class periods, depending on the number of lesson activities used

Materials Needed

Backgrounder for Teachers

In President Bush's 2003 State of the Union Address he announced a plan that would commit billions of dollars to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS in the most afflicted countries of Africa and the Caribbean. This announcement marked an enormous evolution of the U.S. position on the disease since the Reagan Administration. (Find more details at NOW's detailed timeline on U.S. HIV/AIDS policy.)

HIV/AIDS continues to be a global pandemic. (See NOW's map of global AIDS statistics.) The treatment portion of the President's HIV/AIDS plan has provided medication to millions of poor people with AIDS. It has been universally praised as compassionate. The prevention side of the plan, however, has been more controversial. As a matter of policy, any group that receives HIV/AIDS money from the U.S. must publicly pledge its explicit opposition to prostitution. Critics say that taking such an oath would disavow some of the very people these groups are trying to reach to prevent the spread of HIV. In addition, 33% of prevention funds are set aside for programs that will only promote abstinence and faithful, heterosexual marriage. Opponents to that policy think that it is critical to include an emphasis on condom use in any HIV/AIDS prevention strategy.

The African country of Uganda receives U.S. money for the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS, and is an interesting case study in how U.S. policy affects global health issues. Consistent with U.S. policy, Uganda currently promotes abstinence and faithfulness, and does not emphasize condom use. Previously, the country's AIDS prevention strategy had given condom use equal billing with abstinence and fidelity. They called it the "ABC" strategy because it encouraged Abstinence, Being faithful, and using Condoms. While using the "ABC" strategy, Uganda's HIV/AIDS rate went from an estimated 25-30% in the early 90's to about 5% today. Critics of U.S. policy worry that de-emphasizing condom use will result in a wider spread of the virus. (Learn more about Uganda from NOW's Uganda photo essay.)

The Related Resources section of this lesson plan includes links to additional background information on the issues addressed in this lesson plan.

Assumed Student Prior Knowledge

It is assumed that students have some prior knowledge of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the efforts by governments, activists groups, and individuals to combat the disease. It would also be helpful if students knew about the widespread epidemic in Africa.

Teaching Strategy

Note: To prepare your class for this lesson's activities, you might want to help students understand the importance of discussing controversial issues in class and to remember to respect others who might present divergent, or opposing viewpoints. Students should agree to a set of rules of conduct when engaged in controversial discussions. A sample set of guidelines for discussing controversial subjects can be found at the University of North Carolina Web site (

Warm-up Activity: "President Bush's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief."

  1. Place students in small groups of 3-4 students and distribute the handout "President Bush's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief." (See Materials Needed section.)
  2. Have student groups work together to review the excerpts of the President's speech and discuss the questions on the handout.
  3. Follow-up with a large-group general discussion of the following:
    • What was the occasion of the speech?
    • Why was this particular occasion chosen to make this announcement?
    • What words or phrases did the President use to instill feelings of fear or uneasiness, hope, confidence, or pride in the audience?
    • How might you as an American citizen respond to the president's call to action? What questions do you or what else do you want to know have after reading the speech?
Activity II: How Did We Get Here?

In this activity students review a timeline showing U.S. policy and events related to HIV/AIDS from 1980 to 2005 and then prioritize the five most important events from a policy standpoint.

  1. To prep students for the timeline analysis, have them view a segment from the 11/04/05 NOW program and/or read its transcript (available on 11/05/05). Begin with: "Leap back a quarter of a century…" End with: "…that led to President Bush's historic announcement in January of 2003: 15 billion dollars to fight global AIDS."

    Explain to students that they are going to watch a brief summary of how U.S. policy on HIV/AIDS has evolved since the early 1980's. Ask them to take notes on how different presidents have responded to the AIDS crisis.

  2. Place students in small groups and distribute the student handout: "Timeline of Events in U.S. Global HIV/AIDS Policy." Note: A more detailed timeline of U.S. policy is provided on the NOW Web site. The handout's abbreviated version is designed to help students locate key information more quickly.
  3. Have student groups briefly review the timeline and their notes from watching the video, discuss the questions listed on the handout, and complete the "Ranking Key Events" chart at the end of the handout.
  4. Review student findings once the groups have finished their ranking discussions.
  5. Debrief the activity by asking students to identify key events that seemed to promote a change in policy between 1980 and 2005.

Activity III: Policy Debate

  1. Explain to students that they will be conducting a policy debate on the funding of AIDS programs. To introduce the issues that students will debate, show them a segment from the 11/04/05 NOW program and/or read its transcript.

    Begin with: "Many of the AIDS prevention programs around the world…" End with: "…Then it'll go to somebody else."

    Focus student viewing by asking them to write down what pledge is required of groups who wish to receive HIV/AIDS money from the U.S.

  2. Introduce the following statement for debate: "The United States Congress should fund foreign aid programs for HIV/AIDS that support an 'abstinence-only' education and counseling approach."
  3. Divide the class into four large groups: advocates for funding abstinence-only programs, advocates against funding abstinence-only programs, and two groups of decision makers. (Note: The two advocate groups should be even in size, so if necessary, ask students to be in the decision-maker groups to balance the advocate groups' numbers.)
  4. Distribute the student handout, "Advocate's Planning Guidelines" to each advocate and the "Decision Maker's Planning Guidelines" handout to each decision maker. Also, distribute the three articles, "Beyond Slogans: Lessons from Uganda's ABC Experience," "The War Against AIDS and Condoms," and "The ABC of AIDS" to all students. (This reading can be done as homework.)
  5. Have students work independently or with one other student who has the same role and review the articles. Instruct students to identify the source of their information and feel free to mention this during the debate. Students can go to other sources for more information if necessary as time allows.
  6. Both groups of advocates should complete their planning guides. Decision makers should only complete Section 1 of their planning guide. They will complete the remainder after the debate.
  7. Once students have completed their planning guides, have them meet in large groups of other students with the same role to share and discuss the information they have collected. The two advocate groups should determine their best reasons and evidence and the decision makers should determine their best questions for Part 1 on the planning guide.
  8. Form small debate groups composed of an advocate for each side and two decision makers. In some groups you might have more than two decision makers per group.
  9. Explain the debate format below to all groups to conduct their debate:

    Part I

    • The Advocate For should begin and present and defend his or her position on the issue. (10 minutes) During this time the Advocate Against should listen, but may not speak. They can write notes if necessary. The Decision Maker(s) may ask questions at any time.
    • Then the Advocate Against explains and defends his/her position on the issue. (10 minutes) (Same rules as above.)
    Part II

    • In the last 10 minutes, each advocate group may refute the arguments made by the other side one point at a time. The Decision Maker(s) should moderate this so that each advocate group takes turns rebutting the other side's points. The Decision Maker(s) can also ask questions during this time to either advocate.
    • Following the debate the Decision Maker(s) completes his or her planning guide. (This can be done as a homework assignment, if necessary.)
    Part III

    • Decision Makers announce their decisions about funding abstinence-only foreign aid programs and the rationale for their decisions.
    • Teacher should debrief the activity by asking students the following questions:
    a. Which arguments by either side were the strongest? Which arguments were the weakest? Why?
    b. Which ones were the best supported with evidence and were most convincing?
    c. Which values are at the center of the controversy? What values are in conflict?
    d. How can the groups achieve consensus on this issue? What would such a policy look like?
  10. Conclude this activity by asking students to write a newspaper editorial explaining their thoughts on AIDS funding. The editorial should take a position on the issue, provide reasons for their position, and cite specific pieces of evidence to support their reasoning.

Assessment Recommendations

1. Assess the completeness of student work on the "Ranking Key Events" section of the timeline handout.

2. Evaluate the debate activity on students' participation in the preparation groups and their conduct during the debate, including the depth/quality of their arguments and evidence, and the organization/persuasiveness of their presentations.

3. Grade the editorial for accuracy in following the guidelines above, the extent of evidence used, the quality of arguments, as well as the writing's organization and persuasiveness.

Extension Ideas

In addition to the ideas below, be sure to review the Starter Activities and Take Action Ideas related to this lesson's topic.

1. Write a public service announcement on AIDS prevention and support for treatment. This can be either for radio, television, or print media. As resources allow, produce the announcement in its respective format (audio, video, or print) for presentation to the class.

2. Conduct a follow-up investigation on the countries mentioned in the 11/4/05 NOW broadcast by researching the AIDS prevention and treatment programs in Thailand, Uganda, Brazil, and the United States. Compare and contrast the extent of the epidemic in each country (see the NOW map with related statistics), the programs in place to address the problems, and their achievements and shortcomings. Make recommendations on how the programs in each might improve the situation.

3. Make contact with AIDS organizations in your community and find out what they do to educate people on the nature, treatment, and prevention of HIV/AIDS. Report back to the class for discussion, publication in the school newspaper, and/or a fundraising campaign.

4. Research the numerous organizations involved in the fight against AIDS. Find several that approach the problem from different angles and promote different philosophies in the process. Many of these groups provide opportunities and instructions on forming local chapters. Create a committee of students and teachers to examine these organizations and determine which one might be best for organizing a local chapter in your school or community.

Related Resources

Below are some sites that provide useful information related to this lesson's topic. The NOW site has additional Global Health and AIDS Web site recommendations ( that may be of interest.

Acres of Love
This organization provides care, love and hope for abandoned and HIV positive babies and children.

Rx for Survival, A Global Health Challenge
This Web site looks at the most critical and emerging threats to global public health and chronicles the leaders who, against all odds, are doing something about them.

Student Global AIDS Campaign
The Student Global AIDS Campaign is a national movement committed to bringing an end to HIV and AIDS in the U.S. and around the world.

NOVA: "Surviving AIDS"
This 1999 program and Web site provides interesting perspectives on AIDS research and the body's natural defenses against HIV.

About the Author

Greg Timmons is a teacher, curriculum writer, and Executive Director of The Constitution Project in Portland, Oregon. He has taught middle school and secondary social studies for over 30 years, written lessons, and directed institutes on U.S. Constitution-related issues. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Oregon Council for the Social Studies.

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