Aids Activism: Voices Left Out Part II

Author: Lillian Guo


Subject: History


Topic:  Integrated; US Domestic Policy and Social Problems/Policies, Government Response to Social Changes


Grade Levels: High School; 11


This lesson seeks to highlight the ways that people of color and women were marginalized within AIDS activism and AIDS federal research programs.


Time: 50 Minutes


Lesson Objectives:

Students will:

  • Learn about activist efforts made to bring the AIDS crisis into the American public’s consciousness
  • Examine how activism can operate to reproduce inequalities by excluding marginalized groups
  • Analyze how exclusion of marginalized groups in AIDS activism still has consequences today


Essential Questions:



11.11 HSS: Students analyze the major social problems and domestic policy issues in contemporary American society.




ACT UP: A non-partisan group of individuals, united in anger and committed to direct action to end the AIDS crisis.


Activism: The policy or action of using vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social change.


Intersectionality: Coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989, intersectionality refers to an analytical framework that views people through the interaction of their social identities (including gender, race, sexual orientation, socioeconomic class, etc.) resulting in a unique lived social experience of oppression and privilege, as opposed to an additive model of oppression that views people as the sum of their social identities


Marginalize: To treat a group, person, concept as insignificant or peripheral


Teacher Background:

Teacher is encouraged to watch AIDS crisis documentaries such as United in Anger: The History of ACT UP in order to fully understand the intensity of the topic. Teacher must arrange a field trip tour of the National AIDS Memorial.



  • Internet-connected computer



  1. Introduction (10 minutes)
    1. Take several minutes to review Part I of the lessons; ask student volunteers to speak about what they remember learning in the
    2. Have students watch the trailer for United In Anger: A History of ACT UP
    3. Ask students: Can activism produced marginalization?
  2. Main Activity (30 minutes)
    1. Count off students by threes, and ask each group to read excerpts from one of three articles available in resource section bellow.  (Ex. 1’s read one excerpt, 2’s another, and 3’s a third)
    2. Provide students with about 15 minutes to read and annotate their article
    3. Have students form groups of three; there should be one person who read each article in every group. Have students share out what they learned from their article about who the AIDS crisis affected.
  3. Conclusion (10 minutes)
    1. Have each group share what their group talked about; main themes, connections, personal experience, quotes they found interesting, anything is valid.


Relevant Resources:

Crimp, Douglas. “Before Occupy: How AIDS Activists Seized Control of the FDA in 1988.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 10 Dec. 2011, www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2011/12/before-occupy-how-aids-activists-seized-control-of-the-fda-in-1988/249302/.


Levy, Genelle. “For Black and Latino Men, AIDS Is Still a Crisis.” Them., Them., 1 Dec. 2017, www.them.us/story/for-black-and-latino-men-aids-is-still-a-crisis.








Author Information:

Lillian Guo is an undergrad student studying Learning Sciences at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, and is a Summer 2018 Education intern at Our Family Coalition in San Francisco, CA.

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