to Videolink arrow

Newton logo to print




The world has now entered the second decade of dealing with acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). According to the Centers for Disease Control, the AIDS virus was first named in 1982, and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) was identified in 1984. It is important to make the distinction between the two acronyms, AIDS and HIV: Once infected by the HIV virus, a person may not develop the disease AIDS for years. The incubation period for developing AIDS varies from one year to 10, though experts disagree on this. The segment shows what happens in a normal immune system versus an immune system infected with HIV. Under normal conditions, disease-causing agents (pathogens ) attempt to invade the body, inducing an immune response from T-cells , B-cells , andmacrophages . T-cells process the foreign body so that it can be recognized by the B-cells, which in turn produce antibodies that grab the pathogens, pin them down, and mark them for destruction by the macrophages. More and more defenders descend upon the attacking virus until the invasion is neutralized. HIV acts differently than most pathogens: It seeks out the T-cells and incorporates itself into them. Then HIV either reproduces so quickly that it destroys the host cell, or it causes the genetic machinery to reproduce copies of itself, so that it can send out more virus particles to attack other T-cells. HIV doesn't always act quickly; it can hide out in the body and not reproduce immediately. But once in the body, HIV stays there forever, using the host cell as an HIV "factory." Eventually, the body's supply of T-cells becomes depleted until the immune-defense system is severely weakened and susceptible to infection by "opportunistic" pathogens, such as Pneumocystis carinii, a serious respiratory infection, and malignant growths like Kaposi's sarcoma, a vascular-type cancer. HIV is transmitted from an infected person to a healthy person in three basic ways: through sexual intercourse, through the blood system by sharing needles, and perinatally from mother to child. In the United States, the first decade of HIV infection occurred primarily among intravenous-drug abusers, people who had received blood transfusions, homosexual men, bisexual men, and all of their sexual partners. In this second decade, "heterosexual transmission will become the predominant mode of HIV transmission throughout the world," according to the World Health Organization.


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. Materials
  • 3" x 5" cards
  • box
  1. 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.
  2. 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.)


    Collier, D.M. (1992) "AIDS." In The new book of popular science 5: 417-420
    New York: Grolier.
    Cox, F.D. (1992) The AIDS booklet. New York: William C. Brown.
    Nourse, A.E. (1990) Teen guide to AIDS prevention. New York: Franklin
    Saving a generation. (1991) Washington, DC: State of the Art. Videotape.
    Additional sources of information:
    American Red Cross
    AIDS Education Office
    2025 E Street NW
    Washington, DC 20006
    (202) 728-6554 or 6531
    Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
    1600 Clifton Road NE
    Atlanta, GA 30333
    CDC National AIDS hotline
    (800) 342-AIDS
    CDC Spanish hotline
    (800) 344-SIDA
    CDC Hearing-impaired hotline
    (800) AIDS-TTY