Trina L Short (trinalin) wrote,
Trina L Short

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World AIDS Day

As gregmce and warinbabylon have mentioned in their journal entries today, it is World AIDS Day.

Back when my mother was in college to train at being a Microbiologist, she first learned about AIDS. She came home to dad and said "I just learned about the scariest disease ever!" And dad's comment was, "Oh yeah, I've been reading about that in the journals for the past few years."

Well, we've come a long way from a disease that's only known about in the science journals to a disease that pretty much everyone has heard of. But there's still no cure for AIDS. No vaccine. And still, not enough known about the disease. Awareness is a start, but we've got a long way to go in the study and research for AIDS and HIV. It's good that we have days like today to help bring that fact to light.

In a more amusing turn, I'll tell you a story about the time I taught communicable diseases to the 4th & 5th grade. Dad told me about an activity that he used to do with his biology students (and I don't teach biology, so I didn't have activities like this one to hand). Each student has a test tube with a clear liquid in it. They each have an eyedropper. They are allowed to "trade fluids" with their friends. Each basically takes a dropperful of liquid from their friend's test tube and puts it in their own.

After a few minutes of trading fluids, I pick one student at random and say that we need to have a random fluid check. I add a bit of another colorless fluid. And every time that I did this, the test tube fluid turned pink. "Oh no!" I said. "You've tested positive for 'HIV'. Who have you traded fluids with recently - we need to check them as well!" Now the student needs to remember who all he/she traded fluids with. We call the students forward and inform them that their friend has tested positive and we should probably check them as well. Sure enough, this student is pink as well.

Eventually, we test all of the students and usually they're mostly all pink with a few non-pink ones. That's when I'll admit who the first student with "HIV" actually was. And usually the ones who tested negative are furthest from this person. But the students realize that many kids get "HIV" without actually ever sharing fluids with the first person. And that's the real eye-opener of this activity.

In one 5th grade class that I did this in, I had only one student who tested negative. Apparently when he got home from school, he bragged to his mom that he was the only kid in his class that didn't have AIDS. He went on to explain the activity to his mom, who is the high school secretary. She said she had to laugh when her son told her that - after the initial shock.

To do this lab, you start with all but one of the test tubes containing water. And in the remaining test tube, put a very dilute solution of a base like sodium hydroxide. (I had my students wear their lab goggles for this lab and anyone who got liquid on their hands had to wash it off, regardless of which test tube he/she had.) The liquid that you use to test for "HIV"? The chemists in the group are saying "phenolphthalein." They're right. :-)

I won't have those students again for another couple of years yet, but I'd be interested to see if any of them remember the unit they did on communicable diseases. It was certainly memorable for me!
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