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Surviving AIDS

Classroom Activity

To help students understand the facts and issues surrounding HIV and AIDS by creating a newspaper supplement containing information gathered from research.

Materials for each team
  • copy of "Get the Scoop" student handout (HTML)
  • equipment for producing a newspaper supplement (determined by your available technology)
  1. Start by asking students what they think they know or have heard about HIV and AIDS. Then ask students what else they would like to know about the disease (see Newspaper Ideas below). Write their responses on the board.

  2. Organize students into groups and hand out the "Get the Scoop" student handout. Tell students that they are reporters for a newspaper that will publish a section about HIV and AIDS. Outline the newspaper production process: 1) receiving assignments, 2) making lists of questions and sources, 3) checking their lists with you, the editor, 4) collecting facts, 5) having their assignments edited, 6) revising as needed and 7) producing their section.

  3. Students can do articles, bar graph charts, editorial cartoons, timelines, advertisements or any other kind of newspaper element. Have groups choose their element, and based on students' earlier responses, assign each group a topic to investigate.

  4. Have groups come up with questions and sources for their assignments. After you review and revise these lists, students can use them to collect their facts.

  5. Once students have completed their assignments, work with them to edit and critique their work.

  6. To complete the lesson, have students produce their newspaper section, deciding with them how they want to publish their work, where each story or other element should appear in the publication, and why it makes sense to position it there.

  7. As an extension, have students write editorial page articles in agreement or disagreement with some of the ethical and economic issues regarding HIV and AIDS.

Newspaper Ideas
Some ideas you may want to suggest to students:

  • comparison of international statistics on HIV and AIDS cases with U.S. statistics
  • the role that culture may play in HIV transmission and mortality
  • comparison of public health policy worldwide
Activity Answer

Reporting assignments will vary based on students' previous knowledge about various aspects of HIV and AIDS. However, it is likely that several of the articles will deal with basics such as how HIV is transmitted, how it infects the body and how AIDS is treated. See below for more information in those areas.

Discuss any conflicting information students found and possible reasons for the discrepancies. Reasons will vary, but some factors to consider include the reliability of sources, the probability of conflicting information because of the amount of information available and how current the information is.

How HIV is Transmitted
HIV is found in the blood and in the semen or vaginal secretions of an infected person. Because of this, the virus can be transmitted by unprotected sex and by sharing needles (during drug use, body piercing or tatooing) with someone who is infected with the virus. HIV can be also transmitted from an infected mother to her baby during pregnancy, birth or breast feeding. An infected person may look healthy but can still transmit the disease.

HIV cannot be transmitted by insect bites or stings, and there is almost no chance of infection through a blood transfusion. You also cannot get HIV from an infected person with whom contact involves:

  • coughing or sneezing
  • sweat or tears
  • sharing spoons, cups or other eating utensils
  • hugging
  • shaking or holding hands
  • casual contact through closed-mouth kissing

How HIV Infects the Body
HIV attacks the body's immune system, striking at its first line of defense, helper T cells. HIV invades and destroys these cells before they get a chance to signal killer T cells that would ordinarily destroy the virus. HIV can be present for many years before symptoms emerge. The virus becomes AIDS when there is a drop in helper cells and the patient contracts an AIDS-defining illness.

Current Treatments
The main methods of treating HIV and AIDS include attacking the virus itself, strengthening the immune system and controlling the accompanying AIDS-related infections. However, standard therapy that combines powerful drugs to stop HIV from replicating—known as AIDS cocktails—are starting to show life-threatening side effects after long-term use, including diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. In addition, the cocktails require a stringent treatment regimen, and almost half of the patients treated this way do not improve because the drugs are ineffective or the patients develop a resistance to them.

Links and Books

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The CDC National Prevention Information Network provides information on AIDS-related educational resources and copies of Public Health Service publications. The Prevention Network can be reached at (800) 458-5231. For information on the Web:


Greenberg, Lorna. AIDS: How It Works in the Body. New York: Franklin Watts, 1992.
A comprehensive examination of the biology of AIDS.


Cowley, Geoffrey. "Is AIDS Forever?" Newsweek (July 6, 1998): 60-61.
Discusses new developments in experimental vaccines against HIV.

Web Sites

NOVA Online—Surviving AIDS
Delves deeper into the program's content and themes with features such as articles, timelines, interviews, interactive activities, resource links, program transcripts and more.

AIDS Action Council
AIDS Action is a national network of community-based AIDS service organizations. Its Web site provides information about government policies and congressional votes concerning AIDS and links to other AIDS Web sites.

The Body: An AIDS and HIV Resource
Features chat rooms and bulletin boards on AIDS-related subjects, a forum to query top health experts, a search engine on AIDS-related topics, information about receiving treatment and support from AIDS organizations and hotlines, and a 15,000-document library.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
This index includes the AIDS Prevention Guide: The Facts About HIV Infection and AIDS, a 26-page guide that covers how to talk to young people about HIV infection and AIDS, including what to say, what some of their common questions might be and where to go for further information (requires Adobe Acrobat to view).


The "Get the Scoop" activity aligns with the following National Science Education Standards:

Grades 5-8

Life Science

Science Standard C:
Life Science

Structure and function in living systems: Disease is a breakdown in structures or functions of an organism. Some diseases are the result of intrinsic failures of the system. Others are the result of damage by other organisms.

Science in Personal and Social Perspectives

Science Standard F:
Science in Personal and Social Perspectives

Personal health: Sex drive is a natural human function that requires understanding. Sex is also a prominent means of transmitting diseases. The diseases can be prevented through a variety of precautions.

Risks and benefits: Important personal and social decisions are made based on perceptions of benefits and risks.

Grades 9-12

Science in Personal and Social Perspectives

Science Standard F:
Science in Personal and Social Perspectives

Personal and community health:

  • The severity of disease symptoms is dependent on many factors, such as human resistance and the virulence of the disease-producing organism. Many diseases can be prevented, controlled or cured.

  • Sexuality is basic to the physical, mental and social development of humans. Students should understand that human sexuality involves biological functions, psychological motives, and cultural, ethnic, religious and technological influences. Sex is a basic and powerful force that has consequences to individuals' health and to society.

Teacher's Guide
Surviving AIDS

Video is not required for this activity