AIDS - How does it Transmit?

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Let's Play Cards

Find out how HIV is transmitted, and perhaps more importantly, how it is not transmitted. A great deal of myth and mistaken information surrounds the subject of how people become infected with HIV. To clarify the specific ways that HIV is transmitted and to dispel some of the myths, create a card game.


On one card, print an actual or plausible risk factor associated with the transmission of HIV. On the next card, print an unlikely or implausible risk factor. Continue until you have as many cards as you wish. Put the cards in the box.
Have each student pick a card from the box, read it aloud, and place it in one of two piles or mount it on a bulletin board using these two headings:
Risk Factor and Not a Risk Factor
Examples of risk factors: sharing needles with anyone; mixing of blood between persons (as in some rituals of scraping the skin to mingle blood); sexual intercourse; medical situations involving blood when no barrier precautions have been taken; being born to a mother who has HIV/AIDS; tattoo shops (if needles are reused); acupuncture (if needles are reused)
Examples of activities that are not likely to be risk factors: cat bites; sharing food with a person infected with HIV/AIDS; eating food handled, prepared, or served by someone infected with HIV/AIDS; being coughed on; mosquito bites; bites from lice, flies, and other insects; swimming pools; toilet seats; wet towels; sweat; saliva or tears (Saliva and tears have the virus present, but it appears to break down and there have been no known cases.); urine; crowded elevators; hugging; shaking hands; laundromats; clothing; telephones; drinking glasses; eating utensils; giving blood; receiving a blood transfusion (Current screening procedures make blood transfusions almost risk-free.)


  1. Have any of these issues regarding the transmission of HIV/AIDS appeared in the news?
  2. How do misconceptions about the contagiousness of AIDS or any other disease get started? Is fear about contagion in general necessarily negative? What problems could be caused by misunderstanding the contagion factor of AIDS?

Work with a language arts or social studies teacher in your school to stage a debate about AIDS and education. Some possible topics include: Should communities provide free needles and condoms to high-risk populations? Should doctors and dentists be required to be tested for HIV/AIDS? Could there ever be a reason at your school to have students screened for the virus? Do condoms make sex safe, or safer?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has published a list of recommended precautions to be used by health-care professionals with their patients. Invite a health-care professional who understands and uses the precautions on the job to demonstrate and discuss them in your classroom. Ask the health-care provider what he or she feels is the greatest risk when dealing with any patient. Is he frightened about catching the virus? Has she ever treated someone with the virus? Stress that the precautions work both ways--protecting both patient and health-care professional alike.

Create an advertising campaign aimed at persuading young people to protect themselves against infection by HIV. Divide the class into groups and have each group aim its advertising at one of these target audiences: grades kindergarten through 3rd, 4th through 8th, and 9th through 12th. Plan radio and television spots, as well as print materials, including posters, articles in the school newspapers, and public service announcements. Work with a language arts teacher on the finer points of persuasion.

There currently are several HIV vaccines being tested. The most common vaccines available today consist of doses of the pathogen so mild they cannot cause the disease itself, but strong enough to bring on an immune reaction in the body. Study some of the diseases for which vaccines have been developed: smallpox; yellow fever; rabies; influenza; polio; malaria; measles; mumps; rubella; diphtheria; and tetanus.

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