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Surviving AIDS

Ideas from Teachers

(Gr. 8)
This is how we prepared for and followed up to NOVA's "Surviving AIDS" program.

The eighth grade began a two-week study of the Circulatory System. The main point of the curriculum was to end with a focus on the Immune System. The two major references were:

  • Windows on Science, V2, Optic Date Laser Program
  • Science Interactions, Glencoe Publishers

Working with both body systems made a "good marriage" in preparing curriculum for this age student. The material was made more sensible to the kids by the study of the two areas.

An excellent introduction to disease over the centuries was "Matter of Life and Death" from the "A Science Odyssey" series by WGBH last year. For reinforcement skills the series published a Teacher's Guide (Editor's note: The guide is available by writing to: WGBH_Materials_Request at wgbh dot org). The best experiments in the guide were on page 9, Disease Detectives and on page 29, the work with DNA.

If you want the conclusion to your curriculum to stress STDs, there is software by HRM, "Sexually Transmitted Diseases."

In preparation the study of vaccines proved very important for the discussion of AIDS. A background of the role of vaccinations in our past and present health systems was a logical sequence to study for Junior High students. The course of study made the 8th graders more able to discuss and understand where society's emphasis should be in AIDS research. Their priority, after their study and watching the program, was for a vaccination.

Background for health-care issues were readily available from the CDC in Atlanta. It was interesting to see the conclusions the students reached when they studied the risk factors for health-care workers in this country as opposed to the risk of the general population.

Contacts that the kids found to be most useful as major research sources were:

Center for Disease Control
1600 Clifton Road NW
Atlanta, GA 30333
National AIDS Clearing House
Post Office Box 6003
Rockville, MD 20850

Institute for Immunological Disorders
National Institute of Health
9000 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, MD 20892

There was enough background of content material and a re-evaluation of previous misconceptions on the part of the students, that they had a good education of AIDS before seeing the program.

The introduction of the role of T-cells in the NOVA program acted as a good "draw-string" to their two-week curriculum. The program needed to be viewed twice.

The first time they looked for all the things they knew and could readily identify.

The second time the students were looking for new information to see if they could connect it to their study.

They picked at information that was new and collaborated on what significance did the new material have to their knowledge of AIDS.

How much had the two-week study prepared them for viewing the program and for their future concerns on AIDS and other diseases that threaten them (hepatitis, etc.)?

We could accomplish so much in a few weeks because we focused on the blood system and did not spend any time on the organs like the heart, liver, etc.

Without the background study, I know the students would not have been so interested. Following the case studies on the patients was very interesting because the kids already knew the vocabulary and were comfortable with the subject. Without their previous study they would have liked only parts of the program. For their age, the pace of the program was very slow for a junior high mind.

Sent in by
Mary Beth Katz
Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic School
Homewood, AL

(Gr. 9-12)
We are studying viruses and bacteria in class. I showed the NOVA "Surviving AIDS" program today and the kids really stayed focused. I use the list of questions below for students to answer as they watch the program.

I am bringing in guest speakers and HIV patients to discuss medications, wasting stages, and answer any questions. We really get into the details of the helper cells and killer cells and the biology surrounding retroviruses. Great tie in for mutations and variations among populations.

  1. Who is the longest known HIV survivor in the United States?

  2. How did he get infected with HIV and what year did it happen?

  3. How old are the youngest recipients of AIDS drugs?

  4. How many cases of AIDS are known worldwide?

  5. When was AIDS officially discovered in the United States?

  6. Describe what is unique about HIV?

  7. What family does HIV belong to that allows it to make DNA from RNA?

  8. Are there any vaccines for this family of viruses? Why?

  9. What are the dangers of making an HIV vaccine?

  10. How is life prolonged currently for people infected with HIV?

  11. What is happening to Massie's immune system?

  12. What are the two immune cells involved in fighting HIV?

  13. What types of immune cells does Massie have?

  14. What are the bad side effects of the HIV "cocktails"?

  15. How expensive are these cocktails?

  16. What is an outlayer?

  17. What is a nonprogresser?

  18. Why are some cells resistant to HIV infection? Be specific.

  19. What is the genetic mutation that allows some survivors like Steve to not get HIV?

  20. What was the new strategy to prevent T-cell destruction in new patients or the "rescue the immune system" strategy?

  21. What are the symptoms when first infected with HIV before antibodies are made?

  22. In children, how quickly does AIDS progress when compared to adults?

  23. How long have the twins in the movie been on AIDS drugs? How are they doing? How old are they now?

  24. How many pills does the average AIDS patient take a day?

  25. What happened when they tried to take an AIDS patient off his meds to see if his immune system could handle the virus alone?

Sent in by
Suzanne Asaturian
Carbondale Community High School
Carbondale, IL

(Gr. 9-12)
Here is a short set of questions that may help encourage students to pay close attention to NOVA's "Surviving AIDS" program. Please feel free to copy and use with your classes. Answers are included below.



  1. Approximately how many Americans have died of AIDS?

  2. Approximately how many people world-wide have died of AIDS?

  3. An AIDS "cocktail" is:
    (A) blood that contains H.I.V.
    (B) blood that contains antibodies to H.I.V.
    (C) a combination of antiviral drugs
    (D) an H.I.V.-infected CD-4 helper T-cell

  4. What percent of H.I.V.-infected people are long-term nonprogressors?

  5. What is one of the long-term side effects that can develop in H.I.V.-infected people who are taking combinations of antiviral drugs?

  6. Which of the following is NOT true about the CCR-5 receptor?
    (A) It is a protein.
    (B) It is a retrovirus.
    (C) It is located on CD-4 helper cells.
    (D) Its presence is needed in order for H.I.V. entry to occur.

  7. What evidence is there that the CCR-5 receptor is dispensable? In other words, why do scientists suspect that the CCR-5 receptor can be safely attacked without harming patients?

  8. What is one of the symptoms that someone with acute retroviral syndrome typically experience?

  9. With what kind of food did Caroline and Jeffrey's Mom mix their powdered medicine?

  10. What is the life expectancy of children born with AIDS?


  1. 500.000
  2. 11 million
  3. C
  4. About 5%
  5. diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease
  6. B
  7. some long-term nonprocessors are missing a gene for the normal CCR-5 receptor, and they survive without illness
  8. sore throat, high fever, swollen glands
  9. ice cream
  10. About 2 years

Sent in by
Frank Virzi
St. Bernard's Central Catholic High School
Fitchburg, MA

(Gr. 9-12)
My biology teacher, Mr. Bell, had a great idea for tests. He told us to go to NOVA Online's "Surviving AIDS" Web site and think of a question from each subset we would like to put on the test. I think this is a great idea so students can see how hard it is to be a teacher and they also know the answers because it came from them!

Sent in by
Jay Gonzales
Junipero Serra High School
San Mateo, CA

Teacher's Guide
Surviving AIDS

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