How To Teach About HIV/AIDS
- Written by Bryan Harris
- April 22, 2015 at 1:36 pm
Thirty three states and the District of Columbia currently require that schools teach about HIV. This is higher than the number of states mandating sex education. Even in states
requiring only HIV/AIDS education, class sessions may provide an opportunity to discuss other important sex-related topics including contraception. The National Sexuality Education Standards for this topic show how this can be the case.
Beyond meeting these learning objectives Kate McCombs, MPH a sex educator who has trained other public health professionals on this topic, stresses the importance of being culturally competent. “The epidemic is diverse,” she says and “stereotypes [like HIV/AIDS being a gay disease] have some utility but without context provide an incomplete picture.” Therefore, it’s important to learn what the epidemic looks like in the place you’re teaching and customize your lesson to best address that.
Stereotypes also provide good teaching moments for more nuanced conversations. McCombs cautions that this conversation can bring up hurtful statements about men who have sex with men, sex workers, injection drug users, and other populations among whom HIV rates are high. It’s important, therefore, to do a lot of work in advance to prepare responses that allow you to correct the misinformation while continue a productive conversation.
Lastly, McCombs stresses the importance of finding a balance between portraying HIV/AIDS as both something to be taken seriously and a manageable disease. “HIV/AIDS is no longer a death sentence” but ensuring students have accurate information about prevention and testing remains vital.
 Guttmacher Instittue. (2015). Sex and HIV education. State Policies in Brief. http://www.guttmacher.org/statecenter/spibs/spib_SE.pdf