August 1, 2008
State public health director announces successful launch of BASUAH in Second Life
BASUAH (Brothers and Sisters United Against HIV/AIDS) offers HIV/AIDS education in virtual world
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Dr. Damon T. Arnold, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, today announced the successful launch of BASUAH (Brothers and Sisters Against HIV/AIDS) in the virtual world of Second Life. Created by Governor Rod R. Blagojevich in 2005, BASUAH is an aggressive public awareness campaign to address the alarming trend of HIV/AIDS infection among the African-American community in Illinois. The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) Center for Minority Health Services recently created a space (called an island) for BASUAH in Second Life (an Internet-based virtual world) to allow for an open discussion of HIV/AIDS and to act as an e-learning and teaching tool.
“In this day and age of modern technology, we need to reach out to and educate people in a way that keeps up with the times. Our goal in creating BASUAH in Second Life is to provide innovative opportunities to keep the dialogue on HIV/AIDS education and prevention in the fore front of peoples’ minds,” said Dr. Arnold. “This virtual world gives people the opportunity to explore different personas and learn what it would be like to be in someone else’s shoes.”
In the virtual world of BASUAH in Second Life a person can create a character (avatar), with any kind of characteristics, and then interact with other people. Interaction includes discussing freely and anonymously issues surrounding HIV and AIDS. For example, a person can create a character that is a single-mother, age 35 and is HIV positive. While interacting through BASUAH in Second Life, that person could learn how others view an HIV positive woman with a child, how she is potentially persecuted or ostracized for her illness, or what challenges she faces in trying to pay for necessary medications.
BASUAH in Second Life is a collaboration between IDPH and the University of Illinois at Springfield Office of Technology Enhanced Learning and was piloted by Dr. Julian Scheinbuks and his biology class at Chicago State University this past spring. His students were the first BASUAH Ambassadors to participate in the project by holding discussion forums and building presentations. A BASUAH Ambassador acts as a peer educator – someone from within a group (such as a social or age group), who can deliver information that is understood, accepted and acted upon by members within the group. Peer educators are sensitive to community norms, values, cultural beliefs and traditions. They are trusted by the group they serve and act as role models. Ambassadors can practice and polish their presentation skills on BASUAH in Second Life while also participating in role playing to help them in their face-to-face presentations.
“University of Illinois Springfield's Office of Technology-Enhanced Learning is enthusiastic about its collaboration with the Illinois Department of Public Health and Chicago State University. After certifying more than 1,000 BASUAH Ambassadors through our online training program, we are excited about breaking ground in this new environment. The immersive experience of Second Life will allow students to participate in interactive role-play which will help them in their role as a peer educator. We look forward to our continued collaboration and success in this very important initiative,” said Deborah Antoine, Instructional Designer, Office of Technology Enhanced Learning, UIS
The future of BASUAH in Second Life will include virtual seminars and health fairs.
For more information about BASUAH, you can log onto www.basuah.org. To participate in BASUAH in Second Life contact Veronica Halloway with IDPH at 217-785-4311.