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close this bookSchool Health Education to Prevent AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD) : Teachers' Guide (UNESCO - WHO, 1994, 117 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentAcknowledgments
View the documentIntroduction
View the document1. The programme
View the document2. Teaching methods
View the document3. The classroom atmosphere
View the document4. Peer leaders
View the document5. Participation of parents and family members
View the document6. Test items for student evaluation
View the document7. Questions on HIV/AIDS/STD
Open this folder and view contentsUnit 1. Basic knowledge on HIV/AIDS/STD
Open this folder and view contentsUnit 2. Responsible behaviour: delaying sex
Open this folder and view contentsUnit 3. Responsible behaviour: protected sex
Open this folder and view contentsUnit 4. Care and support

2. Teaching methods


Teaching teenagers about HIV/AIDS/STD requires a frank and explicit discussion of sexuality, modes of transmission and methods of protection. Many may be embarrassed about discussing sexuality and related issues. Fortunately, no one has died of embarrassment and we really have no choice, if we want to protect our children from a deadly disease.

Don’t pretend you are not embarrassed when in fact you are. Admit that it is difficult for you, but that it is too important not to talk about it. Start by saying it often is an embarrassing topic and when people are uncomfortable they laugh, make jokes or do other things to cover up their nervousness. This is very effective for the purposes of class control.

Remember that the students in the classroom have different experiences in relation to sex: some are sexually active, others are not; some may be victims of sexual abuse; some had the opportunity to learn about sexuality with a caring adult or older sibling, others have only “street” knowledge; some may have sex to pay for school fees and uniforms. Your language should not be judgemental: this would make some students feel excluded, and therefore, not interested in prevention.

Present sexuality in positive terms. Then HIV/AIDS/STD can be put in the proper context. Explain that prevention of HIV is not just a matter of protecting yourself but also of protecting other people. The behaviour of young people just entering their sexually active period may well determine the future of this epidemic.

This programme is based on participatory methods. Learning about HIV/AIDS/STD cannot be merely the memorization of new information: the aim of AIDS education is to promote behaviour that prevents transmission of HIV and STD. In order for information to have a practical impact on a person’s behaviour, it must be relevant and take into account what that person believes already. Participatory methods are used to validate the learners’ experience and give them confidence, knowledge and skills to question themselves and others, and take action with regard to themselves and others.

Participatory methods facilitate the process of discovery and communication between learners. This is especially important in dealing with such sensitive topics as sexuality and relationships. Unless people are able to be open and honest about their experience, views and fears, it is difficult for them to see how AIDS affects them, and what they can do about it personally. All too often, we think of AIDS as “somebody else’s problem”.

The following methods are suggested:


Discussions can be held with the whole class but they work best when held in small groups. Group discussion stimulates free exchange of ideas, and helps individuals to clarify ideas, feelings, and attitudes. Discussion works very well if it follows some kind of “trigger”, e.g. a case study, a story.


When conducting a group discussion, teachers should be aware of the impact of “putting down” a student’s response. By not accepting responses in a positive way, the teacher may discourage students from answering further questions. The pacing of questions is also important. Students should be given time to think about a response but questions should be rapid enough to keep the pace of the class lively. Try not to ask questions that result in a one word response, e.g. “yes” or “no”. Open, clarifying questions should be asked so as to encourage students to talk.


Brainstorming is a technique in which every student’s response that applies to the topic is acceptable. It is important to not evaluate ideas but to accept everything and to record each idea on the blackboard or a piece of paper. Students need to know that they will not be required to justify or explain any answer. After the period of time for brainstorming, (which should not be too long), time for reflection or prioritizing of the list should be allowed. Brainstorming is effective for:

· Sensitive and controversial issues that need to be explored.
· Encouraging students who are hesitant to enter a discussion.
· Gathering a lot of ideas quickly.


Role-play involves presenting a short spontaneous play which describes possible real-life situations. In role-play, we imitate someone else’s character. This is often easier than having to express our own ideas and feelings.

Role-play is a very effective technique but also a difficult one to master. The following points may help you to make this method more effective:

· Select volunteers, or students who are outgoing and energetic.
· Involve yourself in one of the main roles.
· Give students some lines or a script to get them started.
· Use “props” - hats, cards with names on, wigs, etc.
· Use humour, if possible.
· Pair all students in the class and have each one play a role, e.g. a father and a son. This will eliminate embarrassment of being in front of the class.

Case study/situation

A case study is a fictional story that allows students to make decisions about how the person should act or respond and what the consequences of their actions might be. Case studies allow the students to discuss someone else’s behaviour and, therefore, to avoid revealing personal experiences that might be embarrassing to them.

The case study can be open-ended, that is, the ending of the story may be missing. It is up to the students to decide on all possible conclusions and the consequences and to finally decide on what would be the best ending for the situation.

Group work

Many of the activities contained in the units suggest small group work. Here are some teaching points if you decide to try small group work.

· It is best to start with pairs or groups of three or four. This tends to be less threatening to students. As confidence builds, you can make the groups larger.

· Try to vary the methods used for forming groups as much as possible and make sure that students frequently work with different class members. You decide on the groups. It is best not to let students form their own groups. Those students who are left out (not selected) will feel inferior and not wanted.

· Try giving group responsibilities, e.g. recorder, encourager, keeping the group on their task, time keeper, presenter of group’s work, etc.

· Emphasize a “sink or swim together” attitude. All members must contribute to the assigned task. The group’s success depends on the individual contribution of each member.

· It may be important at times to use groups where the sexes are separated rather than mixed.

Other methods

Story telling is a traditional method of providing information and discussion topics. Situations in the student activities can be told in a story-telling format using the local culture as a base for the story.

Fables are stories that have been told to explain how people can put themselves in danger by acting a certain way. Fables often involve animals as the characters and, therefore, present a message without students feeling badly about their behaviour. The stories can be developed to contain health messages about AIDS and can be followed by a discussion on what was learned and how things could be changed to make it better.

Expressing health messages or feelings about AIDS through music, dance or poetry can be very effective. Use tunes that are known locally and have students put their own words to them. Use dances that everyone knows and put words to them. The whole group can participate in writing the words.

You can develop your role-plays (from the student activities) into full plays which you can then act for parents or students from other schools or other classrooms. At the end of the play, the messages can be discussed with the audience.

Puppets can do things that actors may find difficult to express because of cultural reasons. The audience can ask the puppets questions after the show. This is particularly effective with AIDS issues which can be either embarrassing or difficult to discuss openly.

Methods for large classes

Teachers coping with very large classes of students are unable to interact with students to the point where they are able to hold frank, open discussions. Where there are very large classes, the chalk board is the main teaching aid. In this situation, the teacher can successfully teach facts about AIDS using usual classroom techniques. However, information and activities which involve the students in examining behaviour and experiences have to be organized largely with the participation of the students. Students can be divided into groups, and helped by peer leaders (see section 4).

Following the factual lessons about AIDS, students may carry out group projects, and report back in various ways, e.g. making charts, illustrations, giving reports through talks, role play, drama, etc. Groups report their findings to each other and display their work. Possible topics and tasks:

· What we know about HIV/AIDS/STD.

· What our families know about HIV/AIDS/STD.

· What the community knows about HIV/AIDS/STD.

· What is done at the health centre about people with HIV/AIDS/STD: interview with nurses/doctors.

· Group identifies and collects existing materials, posters, radio/TV plays, to inform people about HIV/AIDS/STD.

· Group finds out which individuals, groups or organizations exist in the community for giving information. Each group holds a meeting with one of the identified persons/organizations.

· Group carries out opinion survey and displays results.

· Group identifies the main recreational activities of peers.

· Group identifies behaviours which could cause the spread of AIDS among different age groups.

· Groups hold meetings to explain AIDS.

· Groups arrange debates/competitions/social events.

· Groups write and act various plays to illustrate the danger of HIV/AIDS in the community.

At the conclusion of such projects, the teacher can arrange for a special guest to be present at the display of findings.

Often at the end of such projects, students can go on to develop other themes which further investigate their social circumstances and involve them in exposing drug and alcohol abuse etc. using the same approaches.