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Shaking up the small screen

Television soap opera MTV Shuga uses TV, the internet, social media, graphic novels and peer education to improve the sexual and reproductive health of young people, reaching nearly 80 per cent of all countries in Africa.

In an effort to improve the sexual and reproductive health of young people, the MTV Staying Alive Foundation has produced four seasons of a ground-breaking 360-degree mass media social-change campaign, reaching more than 550 million households in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, the United Kingdom, and the United States.1

MTV Shuga uses TV, the internet, social media, graphic novels and on-the-ground peer education to spark conversation on difficult topics and open dialogue among young people, fusing public health messaging with gripping storylines and believable characters. 

MTV Shuga 4 was the third series supported by UNICEF. The show currently reaches nearly 80 per cent of all countries in Africa. For the first time, it was translated into French and Portuguese, further extending its reach. 

The campaign’s current and former partners include Kenya’s National AIDS Commission, Nigeria’s National Agency for the Control of AIDS, the United States President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, UNICEF, MTV Base Africa, the Elton John AIDS Foundation and the United Nations Population Fund. 

According to a recent study,2 conducted in part by the World Bank Development Impact Evaluation Unit, MTV Shuga can change attitudes and behavior. Preliminary study results showed that after watching episodes young people aged 18 to 25 years in southwest Nigeria had improved knowledge of and attitudes about HIV.

Seeing Shuga also decreased belief in myths about how HIV is transmitted, such as through sharing toilets or shaking hands, and led to improved knowledge of HIV testing – viewers were almost twice as likely to get tested after six months of watching the show, an important accomplishment if one considers that just 1 in 10 sexually active Nigerian youth gets tested every year.

 


1 Kerongo, Grace, 'Kenyan Actors for Shuga Season 4?', AllAfrica, Cape Town, 6 December 2014, accessed 03 November 2016.

2 Leeming, Jan, 'New World Bank Study Reveals That MTV Shuga Viewers Are Twice As Likely to Get Tested for HIV', MTV Staying Alive, 8 June 2016, accessed 03 November 2016.,

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