Lessons on Stigma: Teaching About HIV/AIDS


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Teaching about the sociology of HIV/AIDS involves teaching about the causes and effects of stigma. We describe a Sociology of HIV/AIDS course at the University of Alabama in which stigma reduction was assessed as a primary objective. The syllabus involved theory-based instruction, class visits, service learning, and student research on community attitudes toward HIV/AIDS. We report on how stigma affected the service learning and other elements of the course, calling for adjustments to our pedagogical approach. We also report how the course was evaluated in a pretest/posttest assessment on attitudes toward people living with HIV/AIDS [PLWHA] (enacted stigma) and hypothetical reactions to being diagnosed with HIV (felt stigma). The results indicated greater tolerance for PLWHA following the class but also greater awareness of HIV stigma and its outcomes. We offer recommendations to help instructors avoid stigma-related materials and events that could jeopardize service learning and course objectives for sensitive topics such as HIV/AIDS.


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Bronwen Lichtenstein
Jamie DeCoster 
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The ASA journal Teaching Sociology (TS) and TRAILS: the Teaching Resources and Innovations Library for Sociology share a common mission to disseminate effective teaching strategies and promote scholarly teaching. This article citation is brought to you through a collaborative project in which Teaching Sociology resources are integrated into TRAILS to...

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