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Surviving and Thriving: AIDS, Politics and Culture presents the following classroom resources for K-12 and undergraduate students and their teachers. The resources offer examples of how the rich content and primary sources in the exhibition can be used to promote students’ developing content knowledge as well as higher order thinking skills. Educators are welcome to adapt these resources in whole or in part as they deem appropriate for students’ interests and academic goals.

Lesson Plans

AIDS Activism: Then and Now

This lesson plan uses selected photos of and slogans used by the ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) groups who protested against the discrimination of those with HIV/AIDS since 1980s until now. Students first examine historical cases of AIDS activism, then explore current online advocacy campaign, Greater than AIDS. The lesson finishes as students select topics and causes that are important to them and create community action proposals.

Fighting HIV/AIDS Stigma: a Case Study

The lesson consists of two classes during which students use primary and secondary source materials that are available online. Students first encounter the term “disease stigma” through a blog post. Then consider the concept of stigma in the context of a health issue. Students consider the importance of dispelling stigma of an infectious disease as an integral part of educating public about how to prevent infections.

Higher Education Modules

Patient Zero and the Early North American HIV/AIDS Epidemic

Drawing its immediate origins from early research into the etiology of AIDS in the early 1980s, yet animated by centuries-old ideas about disease and contagion, the idea of “patient 0”—and later “Patient Zero”—proved to be a powerfully resonant popular explanation for the appearance of AIDS in North America. In 1987, millions of North Americans—reading their newspapers and watching television—were exposed to the untrue assertion that the continent’s HIV/AIDS epidemic could be traced to a single, gay, French-Canadian flight attendant; many continue to hold this belief today. This module, developed by Richard A. McKay, examines the idea’s historical roots and traces its coalescence and amplification in work by epidemiologists and journalists during the 1980s. It also explores the ways in which different groups have deployed the idea of “Patient Zero” to interpret HIV/AIDS and other disease epidemics since then.

Responding to AIDS: History, Politics and Visual Culture

Perhaps more than any other disease, AIDS offers a complex and vivid example of the ways in which people respond differently to epidemics and create multiple, contested explanations for health and illness. In the case of AIDS, scientists and epidemiologists helped upset assumptions about the nature of infectious disease. Public health authorities helped fight stigma and dispel myths with education. Activists challenged the biomedical establishment and helped shape public policy. This module is developed by Eric W. Boyle.

Society at Odds: the Evolution of AIDS Outreach and Education in America

This higher education module employees a cultural-history perspective to compare and contrast the activist and government responses to AIDS with a focus on their mutual influences, similarities and differences. The module begins by examining the cultural climate in the early 1980s, when AIDS began to appear in various American communities. It explores how the community and national responses to the emerging disease shaped and were shaped by the changing American attitudes towards sex, homosexuals, drug-use, and other behaviors associated with HIV/AIDS. This module, authored by Emily W. Easton, attempts to educate students on how AIDS emerged as a social issue as much as a medical one and how cultural factors influenced education, outreach, and advocacy in the 1980s.

Online Activities

Advocating for Facts, Dispelling Rumors

Take a look at several public health posters from the 1980s and 1990s. Those posters often had to address fear of both HIV/AIDS and people with the disease, as a part of educating public about how to prevent its infection and spread.

Fighting a Disease or People?

Which is more effective in preventing an infectious disease—fighting a disease or people? Find the answer through the words of the 13th US Surgeon General, C. Everett Koop, MD who released the first report on AIDS in 1986.

Other Resources

Interested in learning more? Start with selected list of suggested readings and online resources that have been prepared by Julie Peters, the lesson plan author, as well as Jennifer Bier, PhD, the exhibition curator.

Continue to Other Resources