accessibility & help


HIV and AIDS booklet with red ribbon

Introduce young people to the facts about HIV and AIDS, challenging assumptions and myths. 

Move on to think about how it might feel to be stigmatised because of an illness and the impact this could have on everyday life.

Finish with a creative activity designed to show support for people living with HIV and AIDS.

Suggested age range: 13-19 year olds


Learning objectives

Through the activities in this lesson plan, young people will be able to:

  • Reflect on their own assumptions and understanding around HIV and AIDS
  • Understand what stigma is and the harmful effects it can have on people living with HIV and AIDS
  • Explore how it might feel to be stigmatised because of an illness and the impact that would have on daily life
  • Understand the facts and myths around HIV and AIDS including how HIV can and can’t be transmitted
  • Consider how they could show support for people living with HIV and AIDS and inform others of the facts.

Starter: what do we know about HIV?

1. In pairs or individually in response to the following questions ask young people to write ideas on different colour sticky notes, on three pieces of flip chart or in circles on a whiteboard for each question:

  • what they think they already know about HIV
  • how they think HIV is transmitted
  • what myths they think exist around HIV

2.  When they have finished writing up their ideas you could summarise, take a few ideas and read them out, or ask the learners to come up and see what is written.  [If you have time you could group the responses into themes.]

3.  Explain that in this session you’ll be exploring:

  • what HIV and AIDS are, and how HIV is transmitted
  • what stigma is, and how people are affected;
  • how they could take action to show support for people living with HIV and AIDS.

Developing understanding: what is stigma?

[Care should be taken with this exercise due to the sensitive nature of the content - support learners to understand that there is no right or wrong answer, there are many ways to discuss and define stigma as it can be very personal]

4. Divide the learners into small groups; ask them to draw three columns on a sheet of paper [this could be a flipchart with large pens to enable them to work in groups]. 

  • In the first column ask learners to write why people might be stigmatised [e.g. because of how they look, the group they belong to, how they behave, their origins or beliefs etc.]
  • In the second column ask them to write how it might feel to be stigmatised [e.g. disempowered, lonely, isolated, upset, frightened, angry, etc.]
  • In the third column ask them to write how they think this would impact on someone’s daily life. You could ask learners to think about the things they like doing and what they might feel if they were prevented from doing these things. [Some examples might be the impact on their confidence to go out or make friends, prevention from getting a job, unable to socialise or take up hobbies.]

Suggested de-briefing questions:

  • What makes stigma an issue?
  • How might the effects of stigma be harmful to someone?  Specifically how might they be harmful to someone living with HIV or AIDS?
  • What steps could be taken to support someone who felt stigmatised?
  • How could you or your group support someone who felt stigmatised to feel welcomed and included?

5. Ask the group to think about the word stigma – invite them to create a definition of stigma, they can do this in their groups or in pairs – they can use the learning from the previous task to help them think of a definition; ask some of the pairs to share their definition and then see how it compares to the definition the British Red Cross use:

Stigma is a negative association with a particular circumstance, quality, or person. It often comes from misunderstanding or fear of the unknown.

Discrimination may follow as individuals or groups of people are treated unjustly as a result of prejudiced views.

Discrimination against a group therefore could be classed as one of the harmful effects of stigmatising behaviour

HIV myths, facts and stigma: walking debate

6. On opposite walls place the signs ‘true’ and ‘false’.

Ask the learners to stand in the centre of the room, explain that you are going to read out a series of statements; they should choose to place themselves between the signs depending on if they believe the statement to be true or false, if they are not sure ask them to stand in the middle. 

If there is not enough space for a walking debate then you can ask learners to stand up if they believe the statement is ‘true’, remain seated for ‘false’ and put their hand up for ‘not sure’.

[This activity is to enable learners to explore myths and facts and to have healthy debate. You can characterise healthy debate as ‘challenging the idea and not the person’, e.g. could you tell me more about that idea?  I don’t agree with that opinion because…, I understand the reasoning for that idea but…, etc.]

Read out the walking debate statements one at a time, wait for learners to position themselves between the signs; you can then invite responses or select individuals to respond; suggested prompt questions:

  • Could you tell us how you made the decision to stand where you have?
  • [If there are opposing views in the group] ask one learner from each end of the spectrum to explain their reasoning.
  • [it can also be useful to invite the group to change position if they would like to move having heard the debates] you can ask young people why they have chosen to move and what convinced them.

Read out the answers for each statement and allow time for learners to digest the information before moving onto the next statement.  

7. Return to Activity 1: What do we know about HIV? And look at the notes from the learners, have all the questions been answered? 

Is there anything else learners would like to know?

[Any further research could be set as homework or as an independent learning task, or learners could find a fact individually or in pairs to report back to the group.]

Useful websites for research:

Taking action: priority diamond

8. Give out a priority diamond template and options for taking action cards [these can be cut up beforehand or during the session] to small groups. 

Ask the groups to consider and discuss how they could show support for people living with HIV and AIDS and inform others of the facts through a range of actions. 

They may also be able to think of more ideas, so could create their own action cards.  Ask them to work together to prioritise what they would do to take action as a group.

When they have completed their priority diamonds invite feedback from the groups, you could ask prompt questions such as:

  • What decisions did they take to make actions a high or low priority? 
  • Which actions do they think would be most effective? 
  • Have they thought of any more options? 
  • Will they take any of the actions they have discussed?  Why?

Raising awareness: the Red Ribbon

Red ribbon9. The Red Ribbon is considered to be a show of awareness and support for those living with HIV; many people who do not have HIV wear the symbol on World AIDS day. 

The Red Ribbon is now universally recognised.

  • Why do learners think that people might want to show support or raise awareness? 
  • What might having a visual symbol of support mean for people on World AIDS day? 
  • Can learners discuss how this might help reduce stigma against people living with HIV and AIDS?

The red ribbon page on the World AIDS day website includes more information.


Extension activity: applying and sharing learning through creative group work

10. In 1991 a group of artists came together in New York to discuss how they could create a visual identity for World AIDS day - the concept of the Red Ribbon was born and has inspired many other ribbon campaigns.

A simple idea can make a real impact; enabling people to discuss or learn more about an issue that might not previously have been raised.

This activity suggests creative group work ideas, from dance to film projects, aiming to support further learning around the topic.

Young people could share their work with others to raise awareness and teach others. 

People gather in making the shape of the AIDS ribbon


This resource was written by Lucy Tutton and published in January 2015.

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