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For Educators:
Government Policy and Its Impact on HIV/AIDS
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Starter Activities

The following adaptable classroom activities suggest various approaches for introducing and/or extending studies related to HIV/AIDS.

1. Think Critically About Information Sources. This activity asks students to think critically about sources from activist organizations involved in influencing U.S. public policy on HIV/AIDS. Divide students into six groups to research the following organizations:

Ask students to find out basic information on the organization by clicking on links like, "Who we are" or "About ___" or "Mission Statement." Tell students to review the information and speculate the position they believe the organization has on the issue of AIDS policy, treatment, and where funding should go. Have them record their ideas on a piece of paper. Then tell students to type the term "AIDS" into the organization's search engine and review some of the documents regarding the issue. Ask students if the documents confirm their assumptions about the organization's position on AIDS policy? If so, how? If not, why not? Have them summarize the organization's position on AIDS policy from the document review below their speculation of the organization. Have students meet in a large group to debrief. Ask students what they learned about the organizations. How close was their speculation to the organization's real position? What position does each organization take on the issue of AIDS policy? Did students find any information that surprised them or seemed out of character for the organization? What does this activity tell students about the information that comes from these organizations? As they continue to study this subject (or other subjects of a controversial nature), ask students how they will look for bias among the facts and information presented by these groups.

2. Put a Human Face on HIV/AIDS Victims.
Organize students in small groups and ask them to take out a sheet of paper. Have students list vertically on the left-side margin approximately two inches apart the following topics: Family life, medical care, living conditions, and the future. Have students imagine people suffering with AIDS in Africa and then brainstorm descriptive statements for each of the topics listed on their paper. Then, instruct students to review two NOW photo essays related to AIDS in Africa:

  • Photo Essay From South Africa ( - click 'Photo Essay')
  • (Photo Essay From Uganda - click 'Photo Essay') Ask students to examine the pictures, read the captions, and record on the back of their papers what they observe related to the same topics they wrote on the front of their papers. Students can also read NOW's AIDS Stories ( for additional information. Debrief by asking students what stereotypes or misconceptions were challenged after they reviewed the photo essays. Which were reinforced? What images surprised them?
3. Examine Global Statistics on Causes of Death. Write the following terms on the blackboard or overhead projector: "Death due to Disasters," "Deaths due to Conflict," and "Deaths due to HIV/AIDS." Then write the following questions:
  • Which cause of death do you think had the greatest numbers in the last decade?
  • Speculate how many times more the other two causes of death are over the lowest. Then show students the NOW feature AIDS in Perspective ( and ask students for their reactions. Next, have students examine NOW's HIV/AIDS Map and discuss the following questions: Which regions have seen an increase in the number of people living with AIDS? (Answer: All of them.) Which regions have seen a decrease in the number of people living with AIDS? (Answer: None of them.) Though some regions have had a decrease in the percentage of people living with AIDS, their actual numbers have increased. What might be the explanation for this? (Answer: Population increases.) Which regions have experienced the largest percentage increase in the numbers of people living with AIDS? (Answer: The Caribbean, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia.) What overall conclusions can you make from the data on all the charts? (Answers will vary.)

    4. Examine Public Policy and United States - African Relations
    In a March 21, 2005 article from World Press Review, several potential flash points in relations between the United States and African nations are discussed. One of them is how U.S. and African leaders might differ on the best response to the HIV/AIDS emergency in Africa. Download the article "Re-energizing US African Relations" from the World Press Review Web site ( and have students read the first potential flash point: "United States and African leaders may differ on the best response to the HIV/AIDS emergency in Africa" (or they can read the entire article). Hold a discussion asking students what each region needs in their efforts to provide the best response to the HIV/AIDS emergency. What are the human and economic repercussions if neither side responds in a timely manner? What do the article's authors feel are the obligations of both the United States and Africa in addressing the emergency? Ask students for some of their ideas on how the emergency could be addressed.

    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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