The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), a division of the National Institutes of Health, is giving Yale School of Medicine assistant professor Lynn Fiellin $3.9 million to develop a game to promote HIV awareness among young children.
The game will teach "sex, drug and alcohol negotiation and refusal skills" to children between 9 and 14 years of age. Gameplay focuses specifically on avoiding behaviors that carry a risk of HIV infection.
After a five-year development period, children at a New Haven, Connecticut community center will playtest the game during after-school and weekend sessions. Participants will play for two days a week over the course of a month.
In an interview with CNSNews.com
, NICHD Child Development and Behavior Branch chief Peggy McCardle explained that children are being exposed to HIV risks at a younger age, necessitating the game's focus on the 9-14 age bracket.
"According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey: 7.1 percent of high school students say they have had sexual intercourse before the age of 13," said McCardle. "That figure is higher for certain groups, with 26.2 percent of black males and 11.9 percent of Hispanic male students reporting having had intercourse before age 13."
McCardle continues: "Similarly, rates for other risky behaviors are also high, with 23.8 percent of high school students saying they had drunk alcohol and 8.3 percent saying they had tried marijuana before age 13. The rationale for the current project is to teach younger children the negotiation and refusal skills that they will need to resist pressures for risky behaviors, before those behaviors become established, or before they even begin."