World+AIDS+Day+2009Today is World AIDS Day. This day is dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV. Organizations around the world are joining together to promote awareness and education of HIV/AIDS through a variety of events.

This year’s AIDS day comes amidst positive reports that new HIV infections have been reduced by 17% over the past eight years globally and that since 2001, when the United Nations Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS was signed, the number of new infections in sub-Saharan Africa is approximately 15% lower, which is about 400,000 fewer infections in 2008. As we commemorate the World AIDS Day, these strides should motivate us to do even more against this pandemic. Mobile phones are emerging as one of the most effective tools in this fight.

According to International Telecommunication Union (ITU) data, in 2007, there were more than 45 mobile phone subscriptions per 100 inhabitants in Africa, while at the same time, there were 16 fixed telephone lines per 100 inhabitants. Many people are using mobile devices for various needs, whether it’s children or adults, rural or urban population, mobile or sex workers. The mobile phone provides a significant opportunity to reach people who until now have not had access to technology solutions.

As part of its social corporate responsibility, ZMQ, an Indian Technology for Development company, initiated the Freedom HIV/AIDS project, currently one of the largest social initiatives to combat HIV/AIDS using technology. As experts in mobile game development, ZMQ developed an innovative IEC methodology to educate people on HIV/AIDS using mobile phone games. The Play-and-Learn method employed in these games makes them one of  the most effective ways of spreading messages and creating awareness. Learning becomes, not only exciting and engaging, but also helps in better enhancement and retention of knowledge.

Freedom HIV/AIDS comprises of four mobile games (Safety Cricket, Ribbon Chase, The Messenger, Quiz with Babu) targeting different kinds of mobile users in India. The games are deployed on low-end black/white to sophisticated high-end colored devices. The project has been developed for different mobile technology platforms like Java/J2ME, C++/Brew, C++/Symbian and Macromedia Flashlite to cater to over 100 devices and handsets covering over majority of devices.

On World AIDS day – 1st December 2006, Freedom HIV/AIDS added a new chapter – ‘Africa Reach Program’ with Hivos, a leading Dutch development organization, and KPN, the largest Dutch telecom company, under the “Star Programme”. The six countries covered under the Star programme in Africa are Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya in Eastern Africa, and Malawi, Mozambique and Namibia in Southern Africa, the regions of high HIV/AIDS prevalence.

ZMQ  has so  far developed 2 mobile games for Africa: AIDS Fighter Pilot and AIDS Penalty Shoot Out.  As of now, apart from English, these games have been developed in two other local languages – Kiswahili and Shen. I hope that ZMQ will engage more local developers to translate these games into more local languages and to develop more games for Africa.

If I had some free time, I would have volunteered to translate these games into Chichewa and Tumbuka for Malawi.But I do not have the time as of now. Those of you who want to volunteer as translators or developers can contact  Mr. Hilmi Quraishi, the Project Director  – Freedom HIV/AIDS. Those interested in partnership and those who want to donate to this cause can also contact Mr Quraishi.

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