Today on World AIDS Day, it’s worth remembering that global awareness is an important weapon in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
In that spirit, a young Swazi medical science student has devised a way to raise awareness – targeting the youth – through a videogame.
SwaziYolo is a free mobile game created by Bhekumusa Lukhele to raise awareness about the deadly disease among Africa’s youth. If you guessed that the Yolo part stands for the phrase “you only live once”, made famous by a hip hop star, you guessed right, as it is meant to encourage young adults to live responsibly.
HIV and AIDS awareness is an issue that hits close to home for Lukhele as Swaziland PhD candidate hails from a country that’s 26% is reported to be infected HIV.
“Swazi health professionals have been doing their best to educate and encourage Swazis to practice safe sex, but despite these efforts their behaviour patterns have not changed significantly,” Lukhele said in a statement. “Swazis complain they suffer from information fatigue and their minds simply turn off when it comes to HIV-related information”.
“I therefore began to explore creative ways in which we could raise HIV awareness in fun and entertaining ways, without triggering this kind of monotony. Our target audience often chooses entertainment and fun over health. So, we pursued ways of providing fun and immersion to achieve the goals of health education,” he added.
The game was designed and developed by Cape Town-based interactive design agency, Formula D Interactive. In it, players take on a role or avatar of their choice and become characters in an interactive novel, making either risky or safe lifestyle choices while virtually dating and socialising.
SwaziYolo will first be launched in Swaziland in early 2016, once its effectiveness has been tested, it will be customised and expanded to other African countries including South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Kenya and Uganda.
In South Africa the game will be named MzansiYolo.
“We’re currently working on the research side of SwaziYolo because we want to have empirical evidence that such an intervention is indeed effective. Its ethical implications are also being evaluated to ensure that SwaziYolo meets the highest standards,” Lukhele explained.
SwaziYolo will be offered free of charge on Android devices and carry an age restriction of 18.[Image – supplied]