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Trivia game app criticised for saying HIV can kill you

Claire Toureille May 21, 2018

Condoms are displayed during an event to mark International Condom Day in New Delhi on February 13, 2017.

Gaming app Stop is being criticised by activists for saying HIV kills you.

Stop is a popular trivia gaming app on iOS. Players are given five random categories and one letter. Their answers for each of the categories must start with the given letter.

According to the app, HIV is a correct answer to the category “Things that kill you,” although HIV in 2018 is preventable and, for people who are HIV-positive, manageable with the right treatment.

“Trivialising HIV in this way is dangerous and reinforces stigma and myths that still surround the virus,” one activist, Matt Horwood of HIV charity Terrence Higgins Trust, told Gay Star News.

Activists have raised the dangers of the game’s “outdated views” with the app’s developers Fanatee.

“We have reached out to the makers of this app and hope to see them disable ‘HIV’ as a correct answer for any questions that trivialise it in this way,” he added.

“People living with HIV, who are diagnosed promptly and have access to treatment, can expect to live as long as people who do not have HIV,” said executive director of HIV charity NAM, Matthew Hodson.

“Using HIV as an example of ‘things that can kill you’ is outdated. It only serves to support the prejudice and insensitivity that people with HIV face, often on a daily basis.”

“I’m fed up of HIV or AIDS being the punchline to any joke that requires something to be ‘the worst thing ever,’” he added.

The company has denied being prejudiced towards HIV-positive people, but said it won’t change the game.

A Fanatee spokesperson “apologised if [people] feel this answer is offensive to people who are HIV-positive.”

Fanatee said the answer didn’t mean to imply people with HIV don’t live happy healthy lives.

“We’d like to assure… that neither our company nor this game aims at taking any stands, political, medical or otherwise,” a spokesperson said.

“We are a gaming company that aims at entertaining and reaching the largest possible number of people, which means that our word bank also reflects our wish to be as inclusive as possible. Fanatee doesn’t discriminate people based on race, colour, sexual orientation, religion, gender or any other characteristic.”

“We’d also like to emphasise that the name of the category is ‘Things that can kill you,’ which means that what is listed in this category is potentially lethal, but not necessarily so. Viruses might cause diseases, which may be lethal, but in order to contract such diseases, there is a virus involved (as there can be no AIDS without HIV).”

Given progress in treatment and prevention, HIV, while a dangerous illness that can lead to AIDS, is no longer a death sentence.

Man holding a pill used for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV infection

Despite medical progress and several awareness campaigns about HIV, only 37 percent of people said they were “well informed” on the illness in a survey released in early May.

47 percent of respondents did not believe a pill exists that prevents HIV infection. However, the pill, named PrEP, does exist.

“It is dangerous that myths and outdated information remain so widespread,” said director of HIV Scotland, George Valiotis.

“Their prevalence misleads and misinforms people of the 21st century reality of HIV, and devastates relationships and lives.”


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