How MTV Shuga Has Reached Over 700 Million People With Positive Sexual Health Messaging

MTV Shuga is a multi-channel campaign focusing on positive sexual health messaging for young people ages 16-25. The central feature of the campaign is an award-winning TV series,  that has been aired in both Kenya and Nigeria, each for two seasons, and is currently being aired in South Africa for its fifth season. The show is viewable throughout Africa (and worldwide) via social media and other sources, and has to date reached an audience of over 720 million, with a social media reach of about 118 million.

This report focuses on Season 5 of MTV Shuga, filmed in South Africa early 2017.

MTV Shuga fuses sexual-health messaging with gripping storylines exploring the issues of sexual relationships between young people against a backdrop of continuing HIV infections. The campaign’s current collaborators include: MTV Staying Alive FoundationPositive ActionChildren Investment’s Fund Foundation; Marie Stopes International; Department of Basic Education, Republic of South AfricaUSAIDPEPFAR, and Linkages.

MTV Shuga was first launched in Kenya in 2009 as a TV show aimed at young people with an associated website. Since 2013, when the show was adapted for Nigeria, the campaign has used a 360-degree mass-media behavior change design which directed young people to, and promoted the use of, HIV-testing and treatment services that were specifically designed for this population. This 360-degree approach meant that MTV Shuga had presence in the places where young people were most active.

The 2013 campaign was disseminated through the following media and communication platforms:

TV Series

Radio drama

• Website (

• Social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter (@MTVShuga), Instagram

• Mobile interfaces

• MTV Shuga graphic novel

• MTV Shuga music track video

• MTV Shuga tour across three states in Nigeria – Lagos, Abuja and Calabar, with a total audience of 4,000 people

• MTV Shuga peer education campaign held across five states in Nigeria

Today, MTV Shuga reaches 118 million people on social media and 7.7 million via global VOD; MTV Shuga YouTube and third party resources. For Season 5, MTV Shuga is set in South Africa, and is intended for ages 16-25 as well, with particular attention to the 16-19 year old age group.


In preparation for Season 5 of MTV Shuga, where the action is set in South Africa, the team collected and reviewed the latest reports and surveillance studies regarding South Africa’s adolescent population, and also held two focus studies with over 3500 young people to ascertain their attitudes and experiences regarding HIV prevention.

Research findings for Season 5 included:

• South Africa continues to record the largest number of people living with HIV globally with nearly 1 in 5 adults infected (UNAIDS 2015).

• The HSRC Household survey stated, in respect to the rate of new HIV infections, that, “the high incidence among young women aged 15–24 years is troubling and calls on us to address the associated social factors, such as age-disparate relationships.”

Focus studies were held over two periods – first in November 2015 and then again in June 2016. with a total of 3,618 South African high school youth who had watched Series 4. These young people were polled via a survey of 117 questions designed to assess information in the following areas:

• HIV stigma

• Risk

• Sources of sexual knowledge and sexual and reproductive health (SRH) support

• Sex, sexuality and relationships

• Enjoyment and desire to learn

• Social media and technology use

Some of the focus studies for Season 5 included:

• At the end of episode 2, 39% of the young people reported that the episodes make them think about their own lives

• By the end of episode 4, that figure increased to 45%

• After watching MTV Shuga Season 4 completely, that number increased to 84%

• 32% of the high school girls surveyed reported that a girl does not have a right to ask a boy to stop kissing her if she no longer wants him to kiss her as seen in MTV Shuga Season 4 in a scene with a young couple

• 61% of the high school boys and 21% of the girls report that they have already been sexually active

• 15% of the overall sample of girls reported they have been pregnant

• 46% of the youth reported that they know at least one girl who has had an abortion, and 19% knew more than five girls who had abortions

• 61% of the youth reported that their teachers had ‘never’ spoken about contraception and pregnancy prevention

• Only 12% of girls and boys reported that their parents are their primary source of sexual information, with 44% of boys reporting that they learn the most about sex from internet pornography

• 25% of boys reported that they had ‘sexually forced’ someone against their will. 18% of girls report being sexually forced by their boyfriends

This focus studies also included questions on what the respondents wanted to learn about.  This data helped inform the development of story lines for the Season 5 of MTV Shuga:

• 71% wanted to learn more about HIV

• 73% wanted to learn more about relationships

• 73% wanted to learn more about sex

• 64% wanted to learn more about alcohol


MTV Shuga 3000 South Africa: Rapid Polling Results and Key Considerations and Health Compass



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