This safe sex video game cut STI rates, according to a new study

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Screenshot/Northwestern University

A new HIV prevention program created at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine is showing promising results against sexually infectious diseases. Its secret is making prevention into a game.

The app is called “Keep It Up!” and features games as well as other multimedia materials such as scripted soap operas and “man on the street” interviews.

A controlled trial of 901 men having sex with men aged 18-29, using either the new materials or standard, static sex education materials, showed a decrease of 40% in chlamydia and gonorrhea infections within the test group using “Keep It Up!”

Chlamydia and gonorrhea were highlighted in the study because the two diseases can increase ones risk of being infected with HIV. They are also more common and easier to detect, allowing researchers to work with a smaller sample group.

The program consists of seven “modules” with an additional two sessions held in the months following. These include their scripted soap opera called “Sex In The City” that covers assumptions of HIV status as well as the importance of regular HIV testing, and animated stories focusing on hooking up online.

The most innovative part is the Bar & Club Game, an interactive game that focuses on the way that alcohol and drugs can affect prevention of sexually transmitted infections as well as the effect of sexual arousal on decision making skills.

The program materials were also designed to be ethnically diverse to reflect the trial participants. Those in the trial were recruited from Atlanta, Chicago, and New York City, with 63% of participants identifies as being from an ethnic or racial minority.

By contrast, the control program was not tailored to study participants, and largely included readily available, non-interactive materials.

In addition to the 40% reduction in sexually transmitted infections among “Keep It Up!” users in the control study, participants also showed a significant reduction in condomless anal sex

Post-study, researchers are currently seeking funding to make “Keep It Up!” more widely available.

 

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