In Dallas in 2013 there were almost 800 new HIV infections and nearly 16,000 people living with the virus. Of those new infections, nearly 200 were between 13 and 24. That means high school students.
The first time one of my students a story of their cousin dying from AIDS related complications, it was shocking. Recently, my father also told me a story about a childhood friend that died in the 80s when HIV/AIDS were just beginning to be researched and understood. I understand there are some prohibitions in the Texas state laws that prohibit a full and complete discussion of HIV/AIDS and its prevention, but it is still an important discussion. Stick to the facts and you should still have a job by dinner time.
Creative ways I've seen it done?
1. Biology - A few biology teachers took a solution and gave it to every student. Each student would take a drop of their solution and put it in another student's solution. At the end of class they would introduce another substance to everyone's solution and the ones that changed color were considered infected. Using an interactive way to view transmission could have a long lasting impact on the students.
2. Math - Looking at the numbers can be very sobering. You can take the transmission rates and calculate the number of new infections based on certain behaviors in a given population. IV drug users, for example have a higher transmission rate than people that don't inject drugs and practice abstinence.
3. Social Studies - Unpack the history. If you need it, World History TEKS dealing with the spread of infectious disease include but aren't limited to: 1A 1D 1E 6B 28B. I read a few articles over the year that attempt to trace the virus back to the Belgian controlled Congo during the reign of King Leopold II. The relationship between imperialism, industrialization, and the spread of disease is interesting in and of itself, but using this as an opportunity to debunk some of the myths surrounding the virus can also be helpful for your students.
The reality is that there is no cure, it's spread by certain bodily fluids, and it disproportionately impacts men who have sex with men and the black community but exists in all communities. Sometimes there are no symptoms and many people that are infected have no idea. Talking about it is the first step to preventing new infections. You don't have to tell your kids to get tested, and you don't have to tell them to use contraception; however, many of our kids are sexually active and don't know how their bodies work. I known plenty of kids over the years that think holding a baby makes you more fertile or that condoms are reusable. With that kind of nonsense clanging around in their heads, I'd say a little knowledge would go a long way.
Do what you feel comfortable with, but conversations like this are where teachers really can save lives.
HIV/AIDS Statistics in Dallas (2013)
HIV/AIDS Myths Debunked - CNN
Connection between Belgian Imperialism and HIV/AIDS - Dr. Lawrence Brown
Dallas Teachers talking about Paris Terrorist Attacks
Dallas Teachers talking about 9/11
Talking about civil rights and social movements in Dallas schools