MTV Shuga viewers twice as likely to test for HIV

16 June 2016
Characters from MTV Shuga

People who watch the popular MTV series ‘MTV Shuga’ for over six months are more than twice as likely to get tested for HIV compared to those who do not watch the show.

Originating in Kenya in 2009, MTV Shuga is produced by the MTV Staying Alive Foundation and portrays issues that affect many young people living on the African continent. These include intergenerational relationships, from which the show takes its name (‘shuga’ is a slang word for ‘sugar daddy’), HIV and sexual health, teen pregnancy, gender-based violence, alcohol and drug abuse, and sexual identity.

The TV show’s following and popularity is down mainly to its gripping storylines and its ability to talk about difficult issues in a way that young people can relate to.  

According to a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-funded World Bank Study from Nigeria, the show was found to increase HIV testing by 35% among those who watched it for up to six months, and by over half for those who watched it for longer. Knowledge of the ways HIV is transmitted and HIV testing also increased. Viewers were also less likely to have concurrent sexual relations and engage in sex without a condom. Chlamydia incidence among females who watched the show decreased by 58%.

Victor Orozco from The World Bank said: “The experimental evaluation shows that ‘MTV Shuga’ directly improved knowledge, attitudes and behaviours related to HIV/AIDS. The effects in several key outcomes were substantial and given the show’s global reach and low broadcast costs, ‘MTV Shuga’ can potentially alter attitudes and behaviors of millions of individuals at low marginal costs.”

After two seasons in Kenya, the show moved to Nigeria for a further two seasons. A fifth season, taking place in South Africa, was recently announced at the UN High-Level Meeting last week.

The show forms part of the larger MTV Shuga campaign – ‘a 360-degree transmedia behaviour change campaign that tells a story across multiple platforms and formats, with unique pieces of content across each platform’.

Georgia Arnold, Executive Director, MTV Staying Alive Foundation said, “we’re heartened to see that the work we’re doing with ‘MTV Shuga’ is helping drive positive social change. To witness TV actually decreasing sexually transmitted infections is powerful, and MTV and the MTV Staying Alive Foundation are incredibly proud to stand behind this show that showcases TV as a vehicle for good.”

Photo credit:
Bongi and Mary from MTV Shuga ©MTV Shuga