Biomedical Issues of HIV/AIDS
MONICA A. DEVANAS
Director, Faculty Development and Assessment Programs
Teaching Excellence Center
116 College Avenue
New Brunswick, NJ 08901-1165
This course teaches the biology of infectious diseases, immunology, and virology through the questions that surround HIV/AIDS: Where did it come from? How is it transmitted? Can I get it? What can we do to help those that have it? Such driving questions motivate students to learn complex scientific content in microbiology and immunology. But these questions cannot be answered solely by an appeal to biology, as they are also related to questions of economics, politics, education, and human emotion and psychology.
Although this is a large (400+) lecture course for non-science
majors, it emphasizes active learning through online discussion
groups, guest lectures, and research and writing-intensive
assignments. Students identify questions related to HIV/AIDS in
which they have a particular interest. They investigate clinical
studies and educational interventions for specific populations,
negotiating library databases, collecting peer reviewed primary
research articles, and using these articles and statistics to
support their own ideas and proposals for improving the HIV/AIDS
crisis in their target population. They are then asked to have
friends, family members, and colleagues read and comment on their
proposals, as well as one professional with special expertise on
some medical, social, or cultural aspect of HIV/AIDS.
In the course of their research, students work hard to uncover the relationships between scientific and medical research and political agendas. They work even harder to find information about how their career choices are impacted by HIV/AIDS; how their projects and studies may help fight risky behaviors in target communities; how to grapple with the questions of AIDS in the workplace; how cultural influences work to obscure and repress acknowledgement of actual sexual behavior. Students are eager to engage their new knowledge and seek forums for discussions where they can debate issues and ask critical questions. Expert guest lecturers, many of whom are HIV positive themselves,bring the reality and immediacy of living with HIV/AIDS to the classroom, helping the students to better understand the connection between their academic learning and everyday life.
This is a Biological Sciences course and even though it is an introductory level course, it is not to be considered simple or superficial. As a biology course, this curriculum is designed to present the student with the fundamentals of infectious disease, immunology, and virology as they apply to HIV disease. With this knowledge of the biology of the HIV, the impact of the HIV epidemic is examined in a variety of psychological and social arenas.