The Philippine Star

Phl anti-HIV app spreading worldwide


“Battle in the Blood (#BitB),” a Filipino mobile app that raises awareness about the human immunodefi­ciency virus and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS), is spreading worldwide.

Emmanuel Baja, research professor of the University of the Philippine­s -Manila, reported that thousands of people in the Philippine­s and other countries have downloaded BitB.

Baja noted that after its launch last December, about 3,000 people worldwide have already downloaded and are most likely playing BitB, which was conceptual­ized to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS in the country.

Not only Filipinos, Baja said, but also people from Brunei, the Middle

East, Singapore, Canada and China are also now playing the mobile game.

Baja is the principal investigat­or of the HIV Gaming, Engaging and Testing (GET Tested) project, with funding from the UK government.

According to Baja, the mobile game was initially intended to address the stigma associated with AIDS among Filipinos by targeting the 15 to 24 years age-group, who account for the greater bulk of people infected with the deadly virus.

“Those (in the) age group who are sexually active (are fond) of playing internet games,“Baja noted in an interview.

Baja said they started creating the game app in 2015 after a physician in Davao observed a high prevalence of HIV infection among young people in the province.

“The doctor learned that the many young people in Davao who loved playing internet games were being offered money (in exchange) for sex,” Baja disclosed.

Thus, the game app was conceptual­ized to provide players the right informatio­n about HIV/AIDS and where young people can undergo free testing and treatment in case they are found positive for the potentiall­y deadly virus.

“All the informatio­n provided in the game app are confidenti­al, so we are not aware how many of those who uploaded the games were later found positive for the virus,” UP-Manila physician Godofreda Dalmacion said.

Dalmacion noted that age and religion are big deterrents in the efforts to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS in the country.

She said religion prevents parents from discussing sex and HIV/AIDS with their children, without realizing that there are children as young as 11 years old who engage in sex and are exposed to risks of acquiring the virus.

“We have a patient at (the Philippine General Hospital) who is already suffering from full blown AIDS at the age of 23, which means he engaged in sex at a very young age,” Dalmacion pointed out.

Both Baja and Dalmacion expressed hope that through BitB more young people nationwide and other countries would be encouraged not only to play BitB, but also learn about HIV/AIDS and how it could be prevented.

Baja said they are working with the city government­s of Davao and Quezon City to promote the use of the game applicatio­n.

Baja said the game applicatio­n will also have its internatio­nal launch at the 22nd Internatio­nal AIDS Conference organized by the World Health Organizati­on (WHO) in the Netherland­s at the end of the month.

WHO invited the HIV GET Project team, the creator of BitB, to present and launch the mobile game app.

During the conference, BitB will have several session-activities at Global Village including a Battle in the Blood Game Challenge, where mainly young participan­ts will be recruited as contestant­s to play the game.

“It’s really a show and tell during the conference, so we can determine if this game app can be efficient for health promotion, can be applicable abroad and can empower and encourage young people to undergo testing,” Dalmacion said.

Dalmacion also expressed hope that they can find ways to improve the game app after its internatio­nal launch.

Baja said #BitB is the first gaming app that he hopes would help increase the uptake of HIV testing and treatment in the country.

The UK government, Baja said, is happy that thousands of people from various countries have uploaded the game app.

The project is about to end, but Baja said he will continue the game app so more young people will gather informatio­n about HIV/AIDS.

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