SCIENTIST FOR HIV/AIDS AWARENESS. Dr. Emmanuel S. Baja (right), a Balik Scientist, receives a recognition as speaker in the launching of the Society of Health Research Communicators (SHARE) in Region 10 on Tuesday (Nov. 27, 2018). Baja is one of the scientists behind a new mobile game app that seeks to raise public awareness on HIV/AIDS. (Photo by LJ Bacolod, USTP-CDO intern)

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY — One of the scientists behind the creation of a mobile game application that helps raise awareness on human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is promoting the use of the technology in the Philippines.

Dr. Emmanuel S. Baja, a Research Associate Professor & Balik Scientist Awardee, said the app was launched online on Dec. 1 last year during the World AIDS Day commemoration in Davao City.

Baja said the "Battle of the Blood" is a one-time download app, where the player can create his or her own avatar to their liking and will be asked for their geographic location at the very start. It has eight stories of people living with HIV.

Players are subject to an age limit, 12+ for the Google Play and 17+ for the Apple store, before playing the game.

The game starts with several questions, such as the demographics of the player, their knowledge, and attitude towards HIV/AIDS. Baja said the data collected by the app are secure and confidential.

He said the mobile game also assists players in finding testing centers in the Philippines, where they could be tested for HIV.

Baja said he believes the digital advocacy game could help find out the status of men having sex with men (MSM) and transgender women (TGW) in the Philippines.

“This is to break the stigma about HIV, as a lot of people are careful of knowing their status,” Baja said, citing two sides of stigma, the self-stigma and the outside stigma, which discourages people from getting themselves tested for the dreaded virus.

He added HIV “is treatable” and free medication is available at the Department of Health (DOH).

“The game gives hope to everyone, saying that it’s really okay if you’re positive or reactive to the virus. Life goes on,” he said, pointing out the game can help people and encourage them to lead a healthy lifestyle and get early testing.

Baja said aside from the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual (LGBTQIA) community, the mobile game app has obtained the support of schools, local government units, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), and other institutions like hospitals.

To introduce the game to the public, the proponents of the game have started to advertise the app in Cagayan de Oro through the city's Social Hygiene Clinic, the scientist disclosed.

He said if the rollout for the game is approved next year, he plans to do a school campaign to introduce it even to grades 11 and 12 and also talk to the Commission on Higher Education and the Department of Education about it.

He said once the DOST approves the digital game, he and his co-proponents plan to drive for a widespread use of the app across the country.

He said many people in Davao and the National Capital Region have started to download the app. (Renee Barrio, USTP-CDO intern/PNA)