Web-based game educates HIV-positive teens

A Web-based game could help educate teenagers with HIV infection on how to avoid transmitting the virus, a pilot study suggests.

The game, dubbed +CLICK (Positive Click), allows users to navigate through a “shopping mall” where they can choose among different lessons on abstinence, condom use and birth control, as well as video clips featuring other HIV-positive young people and experts on the virus.

In the new study, the Texas researchers who developed the game tested it out on 32 HIV-positive 13- to 24-year-olds - having each patient use the program in the waiting room during a routine doctor visit.

They found that most patients - 84 percent - rated the game as easy to use, while 94 percent said it was “trustworthy,” and 88 percent would use the game again.

Moreover, the game boosted patients’ confidence in their ability to use condoms properly and to delay having sex, the researchers report in the journal AIDS Care.

“We wanted to create +CLICK so that we could help educate youth on the importance of making proper, healthy decisions to protect their relationships and themselves, as well as help to reduce transmission (of HIV),” lead researcher Dr. Christine M. Markham, of the University of Texas School of Public Health, said in a news release from the university.

In the U.S., 13- to 24-year-olds account for nearly half of all new HIV infections, Markham and her colleagues note. Web-based education programs, they say, have the potential to be particularly effective for this age group.

“Participants were very receptive and enthusiastic about playing the game,” Amy Leonard, another researcher on the study, said in the news release. “They also liked that they were able to ask the clinicians questions about what they learned on the lessons.”

Larger, longer-term studies are now needed to see whether the Web program goes beyond changing attitudes and actually leads to higher rates of safer sex and abstinence, according to the researchers.

The game is currently in its last stages of development, and is expected to be available in about 6 months.

SOURCE: AIDS Care, May 2009.

Provided by ArmMed Media