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Reading, Writing, and AIDS

Teaching young people about AIDS is an enormously popular idea. Since the late 1980s, Gallup Polls have revealed that over 90 percent of respondents think public schools should do so. Agreement ends there, however. In the 1990s more angry debate focused on AIDS education than on any issue facing schools since court-ordered busing in the 1970s. The core question of the debate is simple: What is the best way to equip students to protect themselves from this fatal disease? The answers may be miles apart.    

What Causes AIDS and What Does Not?

Since the first U.S. case was identified in 1981, acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) has grown into an epidemic that has, as of 2007, caused the death of 545,805 persons in the United States. The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS estimates that at the end of 2007 there were 33 million people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide. During 2007, AIDS caused the deaths of an estimated 2 million people. At that time, women were increasingly affected by AIDS; it was estimated that women comprised approximately 50 percent of persons living with HIV or AIDS worldwide.