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  • Wife inheritance and the AIDS epidemic in Africa: When an African man dies, it is the responsibility of his brother to inherit his widow. This has become a key factor in the spread of the AIDS virus. This plan looks at this tradition and the AIDS epidemic in African countries and students will discuss possible solutions in a Paideia seminar.
  • Mapping HIV infection in Africa: Using statistical information and maps, students will note the correlation between socio-economic factors and the impact of HIV/AIDS in the countries of Africa.
  • Diseases of Africa: Students will demonstrate an ability to research diseases in Africa and the causes, symptoms, treatment, and long-range solutions involving infrastructure development. They will compare and contrast countries and diseases. Working in groups, students will do research and prepare a multimedia presentation on the disease.

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Summary of activities

In this lesson, students will be assigned the role of someone who is concerned about the AIDS virus in Africa. They may be government officials, AIDS patients, scientists, doctors, to name just a few. The students will research their particular roles and write a statement from that person’s perspective. They will then participate in a symposium in their role deciding on a pragmatic course of action that the developed world should take to respond to the AIDS crisis in African nations.

Learning Outcomes

  • Students will gain an appreciation of the complexity of the AIDS pandemic in Africa.
  • Students will practice critical thinking, writing an oral presentation from the viewpoints of a variety of key stakeholders in the AIDS crisis.

Teacher planning

Time required of the lesson

  • The length of this activity depends on how much time is allotted in class for research. It will probably take students 2-3 hours to research their roles and write their statements. Additional time outside of class may be needed.
  • The in-class symposium will probably take 90-120 minutes.


  • Give all students a copy of the symposium instructions and cut up roles to hand out to individual students
  • Students will need Internet access


Research days:

  1. Teacher should assign roles (randomly or not) to pairs of students. There are 12 roles. Feel free to add roles if needed.
  2. Explain the symposium to students and give students time to read their roles individually and with their partners. Explain the three proposals to students.
  3. Allow students to begin formulating their ideas. Remember, the students should approach this from the perspective of their roles!
  4. Statements should be written and turned in after they are presented at the Symposium. A rough guide for statement length is 1-2 pages.
  5. Make sure students know exactly what their statements will be about.

Symposium days:

  1. Arrange the room as though a conference were being held.
  2. Each role should read their statement to the members of the symposium and then entertain questions.
  3. After all students have presented their statements, discussion of the three proposals should begin
  4. Discussion ends with the panelists voting on which proposal they support (or perhaps a hybrid proposal of their design!)

Student symposium instructions

The Situation:

Many countries in sub-Saharan Africa are facing an HIV epidemic. In some countries over 1/3 of the population is infected with HIV and across the continent nearly 11 million children have been orphaned by AIDS. Currently only approximately 8% of the 4 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa who are in need of anti-retroviral drugs actually have access to those medicines. This symposium is a chance for key stakeholders to share what they know about HIV and to voice their opinions regarding what should be done in Africa.

The Decision:

Three proposals have been submitted before this committee regarding how the developed world should respond to the AIDS crisis. Each member of the committee must voice his/her support for one of the three proposals.

  • Proposal #1: To develop and financially support a “safe-sex” education campaign that educates the African populace about HIV transmission and infection. This plan would provide for the free distribution of condoms, “safe sex” education in schools, and abstinence education materials.
  • Proposal #2: To develop and financially support a plan to make most of sub-Saharan Africa economically stable. This plan would entail eliminating African countries’ debt to wealthy nations, developing sustainable agriculture, and building drinking water treatment facilities.
  • Proposal #3: To demand that the U.S. pharmaceutical companies produce and distribute mass quantities of HIV anti-retroviral drugs to those infected with HIV in Africa.

Tentative timeline:

  • Day 1: roles assigned and begin research
  • Day 2: continue research
  • Day 3: symposium begins
    • Each character will present his/her statement to the panel
    • Questions entertained
  • Day 4: Discussion of the Proposals and Vote

The statements:

Each statement should contain these components:

  • It should tell us who you are
  • It should explain to us your unique perspective on the AIDS crisis in Africa (remember: this should be from the perspective of your character!)
  • It should tell us which proposal you support and why
  • Dressing up to represent your character is a BONUS!

The stakeholders:

Two students are assigned to each role. They may either work together to produce one 2-page statement or work separately to produce a 1-page statement each. Roles may be added or deleted as necessary.

Bono (or other pop icon): You are very concerned about Africa and have made many statements regarding the impact of HIV during your tours with your band U2. You are especially concerned with the amount of debt that African nations owe to wealth nations and believe that this debt prevents African countries from having stable economies and from being able to help themselves. You believe that African nations have long been exploited by the developed nations of the world, who have robbed Africa of its wealth of natural resources.

Minister of Health from Botswana: You have seen many of your countrymen die from AIDS and know that many more will die from the disease during the next 30 years. You know that your country must do something about the epidemic, but you are limited by having very little money. Whatever plan this committee adopts, it must be cost-effective and it must work because there are no second chances for you or for the citizens of your country.

African woman with HIV: You contracted HIV from your husband, who was not faithful to you and your marriage. You know that women are more likely to get HIV than men and you want to explain why to the committee. You are very sick with AIDS and although you have been able to get some free anti-retroviral drugs, because you are too sick to hold down a job, you haven’t had enough money to buy the food needed for a healthy diet. As a result, the drugs aren’t working very well.

Religious activist from the U.S.: You are passionate about helping to stop the spread of AIDS in Africa. You have worked with AIDS patients in the U.S. and in Africa and feel that it is a moral imperative that the developed world does something NOW about this problem. However, you have a moral problem with sex outside of the confines of marriage, and cannot condone the so-called “safe-sex” practices and condom distribution that are promoted to reduce the transmission of HIV. You think that “abstinence-only” education is the way to go.

African orphan whose parents died from HIV: You are living on the streets of Botswana with thousands of other AIDS orphans. You never know where your next meal is going to come from — sometimes it is from a charity organization, other times you have to steal food to keep from starving. Both of your parents died when you were very young, so you can barely remember them. Even though you are 12 years old, you cannot read and you have no money to attend school.

AIDS patient in the U.S.: You contracted HIV from IV drug use in 1996. You currently are out of work and are about to be evicted from your apartment because you don’t have enough money to pay the rent. The reason you are bankrupt is that you have been buying anti-AIDS drugs for the past 9 years to treat your disease. These drugs cost you approximately $5000 per month and you can no longer afford treatment. You think that you might be able to get onto Medicaid, but are not sure whether Medicaid will pay for the drugs you need to survive. You are concerned that all of the focus on HIV in Africa is diverting attention away from AIDS patients in the U.S. You want to make sure the panel understands that there are people in the U.S. suffering from AIDS who also have trouble getting the medicines they need.

CEO of MakeADrug (large pharmaceutical company): Your company produces several anti-AIDS drugs. Because of your company’s success with these drugs and others, MAD has grown into a large corporation with thousands and thousands of shareholders. You know that in order to keep your shareholders happy, MAD must continue to make a lot of profit. You are worried that this panel might pressure you into giving your drugs away at low or no cost, because they are very expensive to produce. You want the committee to realize that your company cannot afford to give these drugs away without suffering huge financial losses.

Head of UNAIDS: You have been working on the AIDS epidemic for several years and know that immediate and drastic action must be taken to correct this problem. Inaction is NOT an option for you. However, you also know that AIDS is rampant not just in Africa, but also in parts of Southeast Asia and Central and South America as well. You want to share with the committee how dire the situation is in Africa, and especially in Botswana and South Africa. You plan to give the committee some hard and fast statistics that will force them to spare no expense in coming up with a solution.

Scientist who has invented several anti-HIV drugs: You are a highly respected scientist who has invented several drugs which, if taken correctly in a “cocktail”, can greatly reduce the likelihood that HIV will develop into AIDS. You want to share with the committee how these drugs work and convince them that they have great potential in helping the people of Africa.

Head of the World Bank: Your organization lends money to developing countries to help them build industry and infrastructure. As these countries develop, they pay back the loans that they borrowed from you (plus LOTS of interest, of course). You know that these loans can be hard to repay, especially for poor countries, but nothing in this world is free, right? Besides, where else would these countries get the money they need to develop? You are afraid that the committee will blame you for the poverty of many African nations, and you want to share with the committee how the World Bank is committed to the welfare of African countries.

African doctor who has treated many HIV patients: You have seen hundreds of people die from AIDS. Your caseload is so large that you are tempted just to quit. However, you know that if you quit, no one else will be there to take care of these patients. You often get frustrated by the fact that you can’t get your hands on enough HIV medication and even when you do, because your patients are so poor and sick, they often can’t stick to the regimented doses required. You want the committee to understand the challenges you face in treating people with AIDS.

African mom with 6 children whose husband died of HIV: You have been living without your husband now for two years since he died of AIDS. It has been very difficult for you to provide food, shelter and clothing for you and your children because jobs are very hard to come by and you only went to school through 6th grade. You know that many women in your situation must turn to prostitution as a way to make the money they need to survive. You need to make the committee aware of the reality of your situation.



Category Performance
4 3 2 1
Quality of Information Information clearly relates to the main topic. It includes several supporting details and/or examples. Information clearly relates to the main topic. It provides 1-2 supporting details and/or examples. Information clearly relates to the main topic. No details and/or examples are given. Information has little or nothing to do with the main topic.
Mechanics No grammatical, spelling or punctuation errors. Almost no grammatical, spelling or punctuation errors. A few grammatical spelling, or punctuation errors. Many grammatical, spelling, or punctuation errors.
Organization Information is very well organized. Coherent and logical flow is obvious. Information is organized with well-constructed paragraphs. Information is organized, but paragraphs are not well-constructed. Information is organized, but paragraphs are not well-constructed.
Perspective The statement clearly and consistently perspective character. The statement appears mostly to be from the perspective of the character. The statement is only sporadically from the perspective of the character. The statement is not at all from the character’s perspective.
Sources All sources (information and graphics) are accurately documented in the desired format. All sources (information and graphics) are accurately documented, but a few are not in the desired format. All sources (information and graphics) are accurately documented, but many are not in the desired format. Some sources are not accurately documented.
Oral Participation in the Symposium Student is consistently an active and engaged participant in the discussion. Student is sometimes an active and engaged participant. Student is rarely involved in the discussion and/or can be distracting to others at times. Student is not at all engaged in the discussion and consistently disrupts and distracts others.

  • Common Core State Standards
    • English Language Arts (2010)
      • Speaking & Listening

        • Grade 9-10
          • 9-10.SL.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9–10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and...

  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Social Studies (2010)
      • World History

        • WH.1 Apply the four interconnected dimensions of historical thinking to the Essential Standards for World History in order to understand the creation and development of societies/civilizations/nations over time. H.1.1 Use Chronological thinking to: Identify...
        • WH.8 Analyze global interdependence and shifts in power in terms of political, economic, social and environmental changes and conflicts since the last half of the twentieth century. WH.8.1 Evaluate global wars in terms of how they challenged political and...

North Carolina curriculum alignment

Social Studies (2003)

Grade 9

  • Goal 8: Patterns of History - The learner will assess the influence of ideals, values, beliefs, and traditions on current global events and issues.
    • Objective 8.05: Analyze how the changing and competing components of cultures have led to current global issues and conflicts, and hypothesize solutions to persistent problems.