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A Video Game in Which You Are HIV-Positive Wins Top Honors

A Video Game in Which You Are HIV-Positive Wins Top Honors


A new award-winning game puts player in shoes of poz person.

I've learned that one of the toughest parts of finding out you are HIV-positive can be the loneliness you feel. Or at least, that’s how I felt after playing I’m Positive, a short, text-based video game for Windows, OS X, and Linux. In the game you play as Tim, an average guy shooting hoops who learns that his ex-girlfriend was recently diagnosed with HIV.

The game takes you through the panic Tim feels. At one point you have to calm Tim down by pressing on his heart and lungs to slow his breathing. When you go for the confirmatory test at the free clinic, you can choose to watch your blood be taken or look out the window. The nurse there gives thorough, non-judgmental answers to common questions like “How could this happen?” or “What is a viral load?”

The graphics and music may be crude, and the text screens did give me flashbacks to my Oregon Trail days, but the information and experience is solid. It is a simple game but very effective at increasing awareness of HIV, encouraging testing, and dispelling common misconceptions, such as, you can only get HIV if you are gay or an injection drug user.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Health and Human Services agreed: I’m Positive was a top five winner of the CDC- and HHS-sponsored 2014  Games for Health Game Jam. The team of four creators – Stephen Borden, Ilya Polyakov, Ali Yildirim, and Stephanie Chergi – participated in the jam, an event brings together gamers to come up with innovative video games to educate the public on health issues.

The game is temporarily unavailable while the CDC studies the efficacy of the game, but you can check out the game trailer below.  

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Katie Peoples