Your sexual health is about to get digital.

mtvU has teamed up with the Kaiser Family Foundation to challenge college students across the country to come up with concepts for a computer game promoting HIV prevention. Who needs pamphlets and hard science when you have an allegorical Mario to teach you how to protect yourself?

The game should be similar to “Darfur is Dying,” the result of last year’s Darfur Digital Activist Contest, also organized by mtvU. That game has understandably taken some flack for trivializing the ongoing crisis in Africa, but it purports merely to use a popular virtual medium to attract attention to its cause. Thus far it has been played more than two million times in six months.

Since AIDS has already claimed more than 25 million lives worldwide, expectations for this new game are much higher. And because HIV is a more immediately global issue than the tragedy in Darfur, an HIV prevention game may be more accessible to its target audience.

“Sexual health is (an issue) that so many young people are dealing with, and so many don’t know that they’re dealing with the issue of AIDS,” said Stephen Friedman, general manager of mtvU.

AIDS awareness is already pervasive in documentaries, books and television, but Friedman said a fresh voice from an unlikely medium might make some kind of difference.

mtvU will accept concept ideas through March 16. The winning team will receive a $5,000 cash prize and can expect to see their concept fully developed by the end of the semester.

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