MTV Staying Alive – ‘Shuga’


Set in Nairobi, Kenya, and back for a hotly anticipated second series, 'Shuga' is a hard-hitting drama that follows the lives, loves and ambitions of a group of young people whose bright lives and fabulous futures are balanced on a knife edge due to their love of living dangerously. It’s a story of love, sex, Friday nights and the indelible marks we leave on one another. Shuga is based in Nairobi, Kenya; in the heart of East Africa and explores the issues of sexual relationships among urban youth against a background of continuing HIV/AIDS infections.

Shuga is a series from MTV Staying Alive (Ignite Campaign) that takes a look at the consequences of sexual decisions by young people on their lives as well as their partners and loved ones. Now while this is not set in the UK, since watching the series a couple of years ago, I think it is a great example of how moving image, whether it be television or film, has a tremendous capacity to challenge perceptions and encourage people to re-evaluate their way of thinking.  The first series was a huge success in Kenya with a reported 60% of young people in Nairobi tuning in. This reach was not limited to Kenya as MTV produced the series rights cleared so that it could be distributed freely worldwide. The evaluation report even highlighted that the show "increased intentions to take an HIV test, decreased intentions to be in a concurrent relationship and increased positive attitudes relating to HIV stigma." Also, over 90% of the young people in Kenya viewer group said the show had an effect on their thinking.

Not too long ago, it was announced that Shuga would be back for a second series, this time with six parts instead of three. In partnership with PEPFAR (The U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) and HIV-free Generation (HFG), Shuga: Love, Sex, Money will take an in-depth look at issues such as HIV testing, stigma, condom use, gender inequity and the role of multiple concurrent partners in driving the HIV epidemic in Africa. What's more, there is a whole campaign behind the production which includes the effective use of online and social media as well as a competition to source new actors and a mentoring programme (Rising Stars), where young Kenyans have the opportunity to contribute to various areas of Shuga such as directing, producing, photography, the street team and public heath. Georgia Arnold, VP of Social Responsibility at MTV and Executive Director of Staying Alive Foundation says:

“It’s not just a TV programme – the way that it was marketed had a huge impact. We partnered with local radio stations to extend its reach, had mobile testing centres, street teams, a website and blog…'Shuga’ showed the world that drama and public health messages can work together to effect genuine attitudinal change. Series two will build on this  foundation to generate real behavioural change in sexual health, while also entertaining and engaging youth audiences.”

Series 2 airs on February 14th 2012. If you missed the first series, don't fret – you can watch all three episodes here or below. For regular news and updates keep an eye on the Shuga website.



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