|Raising Awareness: Developing Social Media Campaigns About HIV and AIDS
Overview: Students consider how celebrities are using social media to build awareness about HIV and AIDS. They then research the basic biology and epidemiology of HIV and AIDS, and develop their own social media campaigns to educate people about the virus and to generate support for HIV and AIDS advocacy.
Materials: Science textbooks, computers with Internet access, and projection equipment
In the article “U.N. Reports Decrease in New HIV Infections,” Donald G. McNeil reports on the global decline in an epidemic virus:
Fewer people are being infected with the virus that causes AIDS than at the epidemic’s peak, but progress against the disease is still halting and fragile, the United Nations’ AIDS-fighting agency reported Tuesday.
In its new report on the epidemic, UNAIDS said 2.6 million people became newly infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, in 2009 — almost 20 percent fewer than in the late 1990s.
Around 25 countries are doing better at prevention, including several in southern Africa with sky-high AIDS rates.
Discussion Questions: For discussion and reading comprehension:
How many people became newly infected with HIV in the last five years? How has this number changed since the 1990s?
Where is the world’s worst AIDS epidemic?
What factors are contributing to the decline in the infection rate in some countries? What factors are contributing to the worsening of the situation elsewhere?
How many people get the drugs they need for treatment? How many do not?
When did the HIV epidemic begin? How many people today have HIV?
Activity: Divide the class into six groups, tasked with investigating various aspects of the biology and epidemiology of HIV and AIDS. Assign each group one of the topics below, along with the accompanying overview and questions to guide their research.
Group 1: Viruses
As its name suggests, HIV – the human immunodeficiency virus – is a type of biological entity called a virus. A basic understanding of the biology of viruses underlies our ability to discuss how HIV works and how scientists, doctors, educators and community leaders are trying to fight its spread.
What are viruses?
How are they different from bacteria?
What is HIV? How is it transmitted?
Do scientists have a clear picture of how HIV originated?
Are HIV. and AIDS the same thing? Explain.
Group 2: The Immune System
The immune system – a collection of specialized structures including cells, tissues, and proteins – protects the body from invaders such as viruses, bacteria and fungi. HIV kills the cells of the immune system. AIDS, which stands for acquired immune deficiency syndrome, sets in when HIV has so severely damaged the immune system that it no longer functions, leaving the body unable to fight infections. A person can live with HIV for many years before the symptoms of AIDS set in.
Which organs and tissues in the body are part of the immune system? What role do they play?
Which cells and proteins play a role in the immune system?
Which parts of the immune system do HIV attack? How do current drug therapies help the immune system keep AIDS at bay?
Group 3: The Spread of HIV
Organizations like the United Nations and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have tracked the spread of HI.V. infection since it first appeared 30 years ago. Identifying infection “hot spots” as well as vulnerable populations is an important step in targeting public health programs to combat the virus.
What does “epidemic” mean? Why is AIDS called an “epidemic”?
Describe in words or images how HIV has spread globally over the past 30 years.
Globally, how many people today are living with HIV? How do those numbers break down by country?
Where in the world has the highest concentration of people infected with the virus?
How many people in the United States have HIV? How many of these people are under the age of 24?
Group 4: Treating and Preventing HIV Infection
One of the slogans promoted by the Join(Red) campaign is that HIV is “treatable and preventable.” A better understanding how the virus can be both prevented and treated will help to battle many misconceptions about the condition.
What are some of the current treatment options for people infected with HIV?
How does anti-retroviral therapy work? Why is its use not more widespread?
Why has HIV been so difficult to treat?
What steps can people take to prevent the spread of HIV?
What are some common misconceptions about HIV? How can these be corrected?
How is it possible that some people infected with HIV never develop AIDS?
Group 5: Living With HIV and AIDS
At the most granular and human level, HIV and AIDS is about individuals who have to live with their infection every day.
What is it like to have HIV and AIDS, for children, teenagers and adults?
How challenging is daily life for those who are HIV-positive or have AIDS?
How do they manage their illness and avoid infecting others?
How else does it affect their lives?
What stigmas are associated with HIV and AIDS?
How well informed about the biology of the virus and the syndrome are those who are infected?
Group 6: Public Awareness Campaigns
Numerous high-profile campaigns have been created over the years to raise both awareness about, and money for, HIV and AIDS.
What major campaigns, including the Names Project and its AIDS Memorial Quilt, the World AIDS Campaign, ONE and (Red) have been developed to address AIDS?
What are the goals of these campaigns?
How do they try to reach their goals?
What impact have they had?
Have they contributed to public awareness and understanding of the science behind HIV and AIDS?
Here are some resources to help all groups get started:
NY Times UN Reports Decrease in New HIV Infections Article http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/24/world/africa/24infect.html
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) HIV/AIDS http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/
CDC Act Against AIDS http://www.cdc.gov/actagainstaids/
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services HIV/AIDS http://www.aids.gov
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services “The Basics of HIV Prevention” http://aidsinfo.nih.gov/education-materials/fact-sheets/20/48/the-basics-of-hiv-prevention
UNAIDS HIV/AIDS Data http://www.unaids.org/en/dataanalysis/
2012 UNAIDS HIV/AIDS Progress Reports by Countries http://www.unaids.org/en/dataanalysis/knowyourresponse/countryprogressreports/2012countries/
UNAIDS HIV/AIDS Goals http://www.unaids.org/en/targetsandcommitments/
World Health Organization (WHO) HIV/AIDS http://www.who.int/hiv/en/
UNICEF HIV/AIDS Awareness http://www.unicef.org/turkey/dn/ah14.html
Planned Parenthood HIV/AIDS http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-topics/stds-hiv-safer-sex/hiv-aids-4264.htm
Planned Parenthood HIV Testing http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-topics/stds-hiv-safer-sex/hiv-testing-19857.htm
Florida Department of Health in Orange County http://www.orchd.com/personalhealth/HIV/index.asp
APA HIV/AIDS and Socioeconomic Status http://www.apa.org/pi/ses/resources/publications/factsheet-hiv-aids.aspx
After students have finished their research, have each group share the most interesting, as well as surprising and attention-getting, information they discovered. Could more progress be made in prevention, treatment and fund-raising if more people knew these facts?
Assignment: Tell the class that they will now develop a social media campaign to raise more awareness about the science and reality of HIV and AIDS. Assign or allow the class to vote on a specific social media platform, like Twitter or Facebook. If students are not sufficiently acquainted with one or the other, show them the platform, being sure to highlight how they are used for campaigns. For example, in the case of Twitter, you might show them how the updates work and how members of Twitter use hash tags. On Facebook, you might review various page elements, like the “wall” and tabs for information, photos, discussions, video and links.
You might also show other examples of how social media have been used to promote causes like AIDS. Examples include the JoinRed and Keep a Child Alive Twitter streams and the Hairdressers Against AIDS and Greater Than AIDS Facebook pages.
Note that each group will be in charge of creating content that reflects what they learned, and have them reconvene in their groups to start developing ideas.
Encourage students to do the following:
Think both creatively and meaningfully in developing their social media strategy.
Figure out how to best communicate a mix of statistics, quotes, images, ideas, questions, and links to information and resources.
Consider how to dispel misconceptions, reinforce existing knowledge, explain the correct use of terminology, and show how funding is used and what progress has been made.
Develop a strategy for what types of information to provide and when, in either a short, sharply defined period of time (like one week) or in the longer term (say, over the course of the semester).
Work on developing the approach and “voice” they will use to communicate their information and grab people’s attention.
Brainstorm how they will attract fans and followers.
If feasible and desired, have the class actually create a Facebook page, Twitter account or the equivalent on another social media site and launch their social media campaign. If they do launch a real social media campaign, develop a schedule for updates to be posted and track the results.
Alternatively, have them create a paper version. If they do it within the school, consider posting their work in a public space, like the library, cafeteria or hallway, where other students can read (and respond to) the posts.