Dalhousie University developed a mobile game that looks to teach African youth about STDs.
The game, called STD Pong, was created after the well-known arcade game but involves African characters and storyline, educating the youth about nine kinds of sexually transmitted diseases and how they can protect themselves from a sexually transmitted infection.
Computer science professor Rita Orji is the brains by the game. Hailing from Nigeria, she used her interest in technology to find a way of improving people’s health and lives.
Orji said she likes creating things that help people and, in Africa, STDs like HIV and other diseases are a real problem.
A 2016 UNESCO report shows that the completion rates for upper secondary school in West and Central Africa were extremely low – 25 percent for girls; 35 percent for boys. With this low of completion rate, it also means a lack of access to quality sex educational programs.
According to the report, there is a multitude of reasons such as parental resistance as well as resistance from educators and other decision makers due to a misunderstanding about why sex education is needed and the effects it can provide. It said these issues hinder the successful implementation of a well-defined, laid out sex education program.
Therefore, what youth learn about sex and STDs comes from the streets and the people in their lives.
Orji said people get a lot of their information from talking with friends, schoolmates, family, etc. And, in most cases, she said, the information they get isn’t facts.
STD Pong wants to change that!
It’s similar to the original Pong game, but the character battles King Aids and his eight evil henchmen such as herpes, chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhea and HIV. When the player faces the disease, they get power-ups like blood abstinence, blood tests and condom use that improve their gameplay. STD bullets come from having unprotected sex of any kind and using an unsterilized needle or other sharp objects, which can have a detrimental impact on the player’s health.
Players face increasing and complex difficulties with each level and STD until they finally get to the last boss – King Aids. Upon completion of a level, the player is given information about that particular STD including symptoms and how to protect themselves.
Dalhousie Master’s of Computer Science student Chinenye Ndulue developed the game for Orji. Ndulue, also from Nigeria, used the Android platform for creating the game, as Android devices are extensively popular in Africa.
He said he wanted to create the game that would allow the youth to use their phones and learn about the different diseases in a fun but educational way. Ndulue said developing the game has been very rewarding.
According to Ndulue, the game is still in its testing phase but hopes an official release will be ready by year’s end.
Orji said funding is also necessary to see how the game’s impact is affecting people’s attitude and beliefs along with their behaviors.
Written by Mark Riegel, MD
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