July 23, 2018, 2:11 am
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#BitB HIV awareness game launched by DOST

THE stigma associated with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is so severe that it is generally not talked about in public and even among those already affected with it. This situation creates barries to HIV awareness, testing and cure.

Dr. Emmanuel S. Baja, a Department of Science and Technology (DOST) “Balik” Scientist announced a digital advocacy gaming application developed to help address the barriers to HIV testing and counselling (HTC).

Baja, a research associate professor at the Institute of Clinical Epidemiology, National Institutes of Health, University of the Philippines Manila is the Principal Investigator of the HIV Gaming, Engaging, and Testing (HIV GET Tested) Project, lead team for the gaming application called Battle in the Blood (#BitB). Dr Miriam Taegtmeyer, a Senior Clinical Lecturer at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) is the UK counterpart Principal Investigator for the project funded by joint grants from the Philippine and British governments.

#BitB is a mobile app that is a unique puzzle and turn-based combat mobile game that aims to influence social norms, knowledge and attitude surrounding HIV or AIDS and to challenge the belief that you can no longer live a long and fulfilling life after a HIV positive diagnosis.

“It is the first gaming app that would hopefully help increase the uptake of HIV testing and treatment in the Philippines,” Dr. Baja said.

#BitB targets adolescents, aged 10 to 19 and young adults, aged 20 to 24. During the design and development of the game the user interface (UI) was focused on being acceptable, relevant, and engaging specifically among men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender (TG) women, communities known to be at high risk of HIV in the Philippines.

The HIV GET team wanted to ensure that the MSM and TG women’s user experience (UX) for the app was comfortable so as to enjoy playing the downloadable game.

“HIV is not a death sentence anymore. It is just a chronic disease like diabetes, there is treatment available and people living with HIV (PLHIV) can still have a normal and happy life. This gaming app (#BitB) is a very powerful communication tool to address the stigma of HIV especially among young MSMs and TG women who are at a higher risk for HIV infection,” Dr. Baja said.

It took almost a year to transform the game design document into a game ready for release through agile software development using repeated internal and external testing sessions. For four months, the research team conducted and transcribed interviews with target users and focus group discussions with HIV testing and counselling service providers to inform the learning objectives in the game. It took another 3 months to develop a 40-page game design document and concept art.

Financing the app creation is the Newton-Agham Grant through the Medical Research Council (MRC) and Philippine government through the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development, DOST. Implementing Agencies of the HIV GET Project are University of the Philippines Manila and LSTM. Cooperating Agencies of the project are the Department of Health (DOH), the local governments of Quezon City and Davao City, Love Yourself Inc., Engaging Tool for Communication in Health (ETCH) and Extra Mile Studios Ltd. - GEB/ HIV-GT
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