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Enah, C., Moneyham, L., Vance, D.E., Childs, G. (2012) Digital Gaming for HIV Prevention with Southern Rural African American Adolescents. Journal of the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care. 2012 Aug 4. [Epub ahead of print]

Drs. Comfort Enah, Linda Moneyham, David E. Vance and Gwendolyn Childs have published a synthesis article entitled  “Digital gaming for HIV prevention with young adolescents” in the most recent issue of the Journal of the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care.  The article, currently available as an electronic publication, addresses the need for an intervention to prevent high risk sexual behavior in young African American adolescents living in the rural South and proposes that video games would provide a developmentally appropriate, culturally relevant mechanism for this intervention.

A disproportionate percentage of new HIV cases in the rural south affect African Americans of all ages.  Although African Americans comprise only 17% of the adolescent population in the Deep South they account for 68% of new AIDS diagnoses in teens aged 13-19.  The incidence of HIV diagnoses among young people aged 13-24 increased 58% from 2005-2008.  This age group accounted for the highest rate of new HIV cases in Alabama in 2011, and also suffers from high rates of sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancies.  Existing HIV prevention programs target adults and older adolescents.  There is a crucial need for an intervention to prevent sexual risk taking in younger adolescents aged 12-14 prior to the initiation of sexual activity.

The authors address sexual risk taking in young adolescents in the context of “The Model of Adolescent Sexual Risk Behaviors” in which judgment modifies protective or escalatory factors to influence risk taking behavior.  Digital games can potentially focus on antecedent factors, risk stimuli, decision making and consequences.  Digital games are appropriate for young African Americans in the Deep South because:  1) they are enjoyable and accessible; 2) they can overcome barriers such as lack of transportation: 3) they can be delivered confidentially; and 4) they can be individually tailored to address social and contextual influences.  Repetition within the game serves as reinforcement of risk avoidance, allowing the young teen to integrate content into his or her behavior.  The authors suggest that the best method for developing a gaming intervention for HIV prevention will involve collaborating with the target population of young adolescents and then using an iterative process of multiple evaluations until the final version is achieved.  In conclusion, the concept of using video games as an intervention to prevent HIV infection in young African Americans living in the rural south is innovative, novel, developmentally appropriate and culturally relevant, and ultimately adaptable to other populations.

For more information, contact Dr. Enah at enahcc@uab.edu
Article summary by Jennifer Frank, PhD ( jfranf@uab.edu)