Lesson 2: Influenza and HIV

With HIV and influenza as models, students examine the concepts of antigenic variation and resistance and underlying genetic processes. They explore questions like why reinfection can occur with some viruses and not with others, and why HIV degrades the human immune system. Students research the influenza pandemic of 1918 to investigate how antigenic variation can defeat the immune system. Activities include an infection simulation game and a diagram of the infection process. Students watch the animation Antigenic Drift: How the Influenza Virus Adapts and a NOVA video.

Time: Four to five 45-minute sessions

Lesson questions

  • What steps are involved in viral infection and replication? 
  • Why are some kinds of influenza virus more deadly than others?
  • How do flu viruses and HIV overcome immune system defenses?

Teacher files

Here you'll find your lesson plan and a quick overview of the lesson content, activities and recommended prerequisites.

Lesson resources

Antigenic Drift: How the Influenza Virus Adapts (video animation)

Student files

These documents can be distributed to your students digitally or on paper: