Middle School Teacher Uses Science Experiment to Demonstrate How HIV Can Spread Undetected Among Population
Students in a sixth-grade science class at Cranbrook Kingswood Boys Middle School in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., on Wednesday conducted a "unique" experiment designed to show them how HIV can spread undetected through the general population, the Detroit Free Press reports. Teacher Tom Mecsey gave the 52 students individual test tubes; all of the tubes were filled with water, except for one that was filled with sodium hydroxide, representing HIV. The students did not know which test tube had the sodium hydroxide, nor did they know that the experiment had to do with the spread of HIV. The students were then directed to exchange two drops of their liquid with another student and keep records of the names of their partners as part of a serial dilution experiment. The process was repeated nine times. Mecsey then revealed that the experiment was not about dilution and asked the students what would occur if one of the tubes had contained HIV. Two other teachers then added phenolphthalein to all of the test tubes; tubes that were "infected" with the sodium hydroxide turned pink, while uninfected tubes remained clear. Thirty-three of the 52 tubes were infected, while 19 were not. "It's incredible how easily it can spread and how it can start with one person and spread to 20 really fast," Blaine Benson, a student whose liquid was infected, said. The students then used the records they had kept of who they exchanged liquid with to trace the sodium hydroxide back to its source. The lesson, which did not include any discussion of sex or condoms, was inspired by discussions the students and teachers had about the biography of Ryan White, a young AIDS activist who died in 1990 (Higgins, Detroit Free Press, 5/30).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.