Sex, Love and HIV: MTV’s Huge TV Hit “Shuga” Hits South Africa



For the first time since Spotlights began several years ago, the Health COMpass is highlighting a campaign that is just beginning and intends to follow it, updating the campaign page as results come in, over the next year. MTV Shuga has run for four seasons in Kenya and Nigeria, and Season 5, set in South Africa, just premiered this month.

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 aired in both Kenya and Nigeria, each for two seasons, and has just premiered 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.

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.

MTV Shuga 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 specifically designed for this population. This 360-degree approach meant that MTV Shuga had a 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, 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

An evaluation of the first four seasons of MTV Shuga showed the audience understood the messages well and learned more about HIV and sexual behavior. It also showed an increase in HIV testing and a lower likelihood of having multiple sexual partners.

The latest Spotlight by the Health COMpass details the results of the first four seasons and offers the latest information on Season Five (intended for ages 16-25 as well) with particular attention to the 16-19 year-old age group. As new results come in, the page will be updated – readers will be invited to follow the campaign as it develops.

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