HIV/AIDS and Contemporary Population Dynamics

HIV/AIDS and Contemporary Population Dynamics

HIV/AIDS emerged in the late 20th century. Believed to have originated in Africa, the disease has spread worldwide. Occurrence of HIV/AIDS and primary means of diffusion vary among regions. Because of the social and economic impacts of this disease, students should have a good understanding of the patterns and processes that define the spread of the disease.


  • To describe the spread and occurence of HIV/AIDS at multiple scales
  • To explain global and regional variations in the occurence of HIV/AIDS
  • To understand the spread of HIV/AIDS in the United States

Content Standards
AP Human Geography*: Unit II—Population Unit
B. Population growth and decline over time and space
3. Patterns of fertility, mortality, and health

Student Activities

Lesson Resources

“The Demographic Impact of AIDS” from the World Population Prospects: The 2002 Revision (pp. 10-14)

PowerPoint: “Global Summary of the HIV/AIDS Epidemic” (UNAIDS) (PPT: 295KB)

[Note: This is a collection of slides highlighting global and regional HIV/AIDS statistics, as of July 2006.]

“AIDS Epidemic Update 2004-Introduction” (5 pages)

How to Create Choropleth Maps (PDF: 35KB)

[Note: The page numbers provided refer to the pages of the publication, not the pdf file.]

Central Concepts: Mortality patterns; population change; diffusion (disease)

Case Locations:
Global; United States


Activity 1: HIV/AIDS—A Scourge of the Land

Often likened to the plague that decimated the population of 14th-century Europe, HIV/AIDS has changed the lives and hopes of millions of people around the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than 20 million people have died of this disease since its discovery in 1981,and 35 million to 45 million currently live with the virus. Africa, where the virus is believed to have originated, has the great majority of cases, but every world region has been touched by this deadly disease. Once thought to affect mainly men, HIV/AIDS is spreading rapidly among women and children.

Part One: What Is the Global Impact of HIV/AIDS?

Materials Needed

Note: To edit the PowerPoint file or view Notes you may need to use “Save Target As…” to save it to your hard drive and then open the file from PowerPoint.


  1. Introduce the topic using the UNAIDS PowerPoint Presentation “Global Summary of the HIV/AIDS Epidemic.” [Note: This is a collection of slides highlighting global and regional HIV/AIDS statistics, as of July 2006.]
  2. Have students read pages 10-14 of the “Demographic Impact of AIDS” from the list above.
  3. Distribute copies of Handouts 1 and 2. Have the students complete the questions and map based on the above reading.

Part Two: Are Some Regions More Seriously Affected by HIV/AIDS Than Others?

Materials Needed


  1. Divide the class into seven groups. Assign each group one of the following regions.[Note: Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa can be subdivided if more groups are needed, or groups for these regions can have more students assigned]
  • Asia
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
  • North Africa and the Middle East
  • Eastern Europe and Central Asia
  • Latin America
  • Caribbean
  • High-Income Countries
  1. Direct each group to the above websites to investigate the spread of HIV/AIDS in its assigned region.
  • Beginning with the 2004 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic, direct students to develop a profile of the region that identifies the occurrence of the disease in the assigned region, specific groups affected, and most common means of spread.
  • Next have students locate two or three specific country examples in the “Epidemiological Fact Sheets” in order to develop representative case study examples. Ask them to locate at least one country for which a map is provided and to observe patterns of distribution.
  1. Have groups report back to the class and consider the following:
  • How does the occurrence of HIV/AIDS vary by region?
  • Are the same groups affected in similar ways in all regions?
  • What patterns of diffusion can be observed? Does the disease spread in the same way in all regions?
  • What are some economic and social effects of the disease in each region?

Activity 2: Pattern of HIV/AIDS in the United States


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that some 900,000 people in the United States are infected with the HIV virus, but the disease is not uniformly distributed throughout the country. Neither does it follow patterns of diffusion found in some other regions.

In this activity, students will need Internet access to use data found in a set of Excel spreadsheeets.

Part One: How Has HIV/AIDS Affected the United States?

Materials Needed

  • Handout 1. “Death Rates for Selected Causes of Death, 1950-2002” (Excel: 127KB)
  • Handout 2. “Death Rates for HIV by Sex, Race, Ethnicity, and Age Group, 1987-2002” (Excel: 99KB)
  • Graphing paper or graphing software (MS Excel)


  1. Have students open Handout 1 and have them locate the data for HIV/AIDS. Then answer the following questions:
  • What are the main causes of death in the United States?
  • What changes in cause of death have occurred since 1950?
  • In what year did HIV/AIDS first appear?
  • Construct a graph showing the changing death rate (per 100,000 population) due to HIV/AIDS since 1950.
  • Next, construct graphs showing death rates (per 100,000) by sex, race, and ethnicity due to HIV/AIDS since 1950.
  1. Lead a class discussion of the patterns revealed in the graphs students have constructed.
  2. Have students open Handout 2 and answer the following questions:
  • What age groups are most likely to be infected with the HIV virus?
  • Have there been changes in this pattern over time?
  • Are similar age patterns observed regardless of sex, race, or ethnicity?

Part Two: Are AIDS Cases Uniformly Distributed Throughout the United States?

Materials Needed

  • Handout 3. “AIDS Cases (per 100,000) by State, 2001-2002” (Excel: 35KB)
  • Handout 4. “AIDS Cases (per 100,000) by Metropolitan Areas, 2001-2002” (Excel: 37KB)
  • Handout 5. Blank map of the United States (PDF: 184KB)
  • Instructions on how to create a choropleth map (PDF: 35KB)
  • Colored pencils
  • Access to an atlas, almanac or the U.S. Census Bureau website at


  1. Have students open Handout 3 and distribute copies of Handout 5.
  • Using Handout 3, have the class examine the range of rates per 100,000 for AIDS cases by state and decide on ranges for data categories.
  • Divide the class in half and have students construct choropleth maps of the rate per 100,000 of AIDS by state in the United States for 2001 and 2002, using the agreed data categories. (See the instructions above on how to create choropleth maps, if necessary.)
  • Have students describe patterns that the maps reveal.
  • Encourage students to speculate on possible reasons for these patterns.
  • Ask students if there are any changes between 2001 and 2002.
  1. Next, have the students open Handout 4.
  • Using Handout 4, have the students scan the death rates due to AIDS in metropolitan areas, creating categories and sorting the metropolitan areas based on death rates.
  • Have students refer to an atlas, almanac, or the U.S. Census Bureau website to determine the total population of these metropolitan areas.
  • Ask students what patterns can be observed in terms of death rates due to AIDS and the size of the metropolitan area.
  • Encourage students to speculate on reasons for these patterns.

This lesson plan is part of a teaching package, Making Population Real: New Lesson Plans and Classroom Activities.

* AP and the Advanced Placement Program are registered trademarks of the College Entrance Examination Board, which was not involved in the production of these lesson plans.