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The future of digital games for HIV prevention and care

Hightow-Weidman, Lisa B.a; Muessig, Kathryn E.b; Bauermeister, José A.d; LeGrand, Sarac; Fiellin, Lynn E.e

doi: 10.1097/COH.0000000000000399
HIV AND NEW TECHNOLOGIES: Edited by Nittaya Phanuphak, Lisa B. Hightow-Weidman, and David A. Wohl

Purpose of review Although there has been a significant increase in mHealth interventions addressing the HIV prevention and care continuum, interventions using game mechanics have been less explored. Digital games are rapidly becoming an important tool for improving health behaviors and supporting the delivery of care and education. The purpose of this review is to provide a historical context for the use of gamification and videogames (including those using virtual reality) used in technology-based HIV interventions and to review new research in the field.

Recent findings A review of recently published (1 January 2016–31 March 2017) or presented abstracts (2016) identified a paucity of technology-based interventions that included gamification elements or any terms associated with videogames or gameplay. A larger portfolio of digital gaming interventions is in the pipeline.

Summary Use of digital games that include elements of gamification or consist of standalone videogames or virtual-reality-based games, represent a promising intervention strategy to address the HIV prevention and care continuum, especially among youth. Our review demonstrates that there is significant room for growth in this area in designing, developing, testing and most importantly, implementation and dissemination these novel interventions.

aInstitute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

bDepartment of Health Behavior, Gillings School of Global Public Health, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill

cCenter for Health Policy and Inequalities Research, Duke Global Health Institute, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina

dDepartment of Family and Community Health; School of Nursing - University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

eYale University School of Medicine, New Haven Connecticut, USA

Correspondence to Lisa B. Hightow-Weidman, University of North Carolina, 130 Mason Farm, Road, Bioinformatics-Suite 2154, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA. E-mail:

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