Plain wordson safe sex
Daniels Publishing, 38 Cambridge Place, Cambridge CB2 1NS.Tel: 01223 467144 How can we make educating young people about HIV and Aids relevant and up-to-date? One way is to be as aware of the methods we use as much as the content of what we teach.
The Aids and You card game was originally developed by the British Medical Association in 1989, based on the information booklet of the same name which won an award from the Plain English Campaign in 1987. Since then it has been a useful device for conveying the factual aspects of HIV and Aids. I myself have used the game several times with groups of both young people and adults and can testify to its clarity and ease of use.
Now it has been developed in computer format by the research unit at Mid-Downs Health Authority (soon to be West Sussex), with funding from South Thames Regional Health Authority, as the first module in an interactive computer-based information package on sexual health issues.
As with the card game, young people sort the "cards", which depict a range of social and sexual activities, according to whether they are safe or unsafe in relation to getting HIV. The computer then tells students whether they are right or wrong, giving further information about why.
In another part of the module, the activities are sorted according to whether or not a person with HIV or Aids would be likely to transmit the virus through doing them.
There are 36 cards, ranging from eating in restaurants to having unprotected sex. Using all the cards at once would probably be too much for one session, so you can use different groupings of activities - medical matters, sexual behaviour, social behaviour or sharing a house with someone who has HIV. Also, you can easily make up your own pack according to the age and maturity of the pupils or if you want to focus on specific topics.
While the game itself is quite fun to play, the processing and understanding of the issues will need to be addressed in other ways. There is no way that young people should be deemed to have "done" HIV and Aids if they have used this game either alone or in a small group.
Using the game could be a useful part of several lessons' work on the topic, to make sure, perhaps, that the factual information has been covered in an interesting way. It could be suitable for a wide range of young people at secondary level, having been tested both in a sixth form college and a youth centre.
On the negative side, the package lacked suggestions for teachers about how best to integrate the use of computers into personal and social education work in the classroom, which I think is a major issue given that a computer game can only be used by individual pupils or small groups at any one time.
There is also very little information for teachers on how best to deal with the issues thrown up by the game or suggestions for follow-up work.
Also, one or two of the resource materials suggested in the accompanying booklet are now out-of-date.