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Early Prevention: A Lesson in AIDS in Michigan

June 3, 2002

By the end of a science experiment at Cranbrook Kingswood Boys Middle School in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., Mike Barnes, 12, had spread it to 33 of his 51 classmates. "It" was a liquid in a tube that represented fluid infected with HIV. "I was like, surprised. Out of 52 tubes I didn't think I could be the one," Barnes said.

Science teacher Tom Mecsey described the experiment as "an attempt to show them how the AIDS virus is likely to spread if precautions aren't taken." The 52 students started the activity by taking a tube. All the tubes were filled with water, except for one, which contained sodium hydroxide. Mecsey had the students exchange two drops of their liquid with another student's liquid. They repeated the process nine times, recording the name of each student they exchanged with. Then Mecsey revealed that the lesson was not about serial dilution, as he had first said. He asked the students what would happen if one tube were filled with an HIV-infected liquid. The students agreed that many other tubes were likely to be infected.

Drops of phenolphthalein were then added to each tube, causing the liquid in those "infected" to turn pink. The tubes of 33 students had the virus; only 19 did not. "That's 64 percent of the class. That's frightening, isn't it?" Mecsey asked. "It's incredible how easily it can spread, and how it can start with one person and spread to 20 really fast," said Blaine Benson, 12.

The students analyzed their partners to determine that Mike Barnes was the one student who picked the sodium hydroxide-filled tube. The method was similar to how the CDC pinpoints the origin of infection, Mecsey said. The lesson stemmed from discussions about the biography of AIDS activist Ryan White, who died in 1990.


Back to other CDC news for June 3, 2002

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Adapted from:
Detroit Free Press
05.30.02; Lori Higgins

This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
Quiz: Are You at Risk for HIV?
10 Common Fears About HIV Transmission
More Activities, Lesson Plans and Other Resources to Prevent HIV in Young People


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