CBC Digital Archives

Lesson Plan: For Teachers: Understanding the AIDS Crisis

Social Studies
1 lesson
To understand society's response to a disease epidemic
In this introductory activity, students will gather information about the early years of the AIDS crisis and write a letter to the editor to share their opinion.

Lesson Plan

Before Exploring

Explain to your students that together, you and they will be discussing the early years of the AIDS crisis in North America. Begin by asking students what they already know about AIDS. Treat the topic and discussion with sensitivity. You might ask such questions as:


What is AIDS?

When did AIDS first appear in North America?

How is AIDS transmitted?

How is AIDS not transmitted?

How can AIDS be prevented?

Be sure to clear up any misconceptions raised in the discussion.

Outline the Opportunity

Direct students to the clips "Outbreak of rare cancer baffles doctors", "An epidemic of AIDS, an epidemic of fear", "The politics of plague", and "Researchers desperately seek the cause of AIDS" on the topic The Early Years of the AIDS Crisis on the CBC Digital Archives website. Have them view the information as if they have no prior knowledge about AIDS, and make notes about what they find out.

From their notes, and in role as a citizen in the early 1980s, students should write a letter to the editor of a local paper describing their thoughts and opinions about this new plague.

Revisit and Reflect

Ask students to share their letters with the class. Create a list identifying the perspectives presented. Together, discuss the logical impact of these views if they were extended to the larger community.



Have students research local newspaper archives to find editorials and letters to the editor from 1981-1984 that express people's views on the AIDS crisis. Students should compare these editorials and letters with their own in terms of tone, emotion, and opinions.

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