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HIV self-screening scene in MTV Shuga Down South, Season 2. Credit – The MTV Staying Alive Foundation

MTV Shuga Evaluation

Evaluating the impact of the MTV Shuga mass media campaign. Centred around a TV drama, the campaign is designed to improve the sexual health of young people.

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Since 2019, we have conducted an independent evaluation of the MTV Shuga multi-media campaign in different contexts. We use a range of rigorous and innovative research methods to identify whether and how MTV Shuga influences the healthy sexual development of young audiences, specifically the MTV Shuga ‘Down South’ series in South Africa in 2019 & 2020 and the first francophone series - ‘Babi’ - produced in Cote d’Ivoire in 2019 & 2021. Our primary aim is to assess MTV Shuga’s impact on young people’s knowledge of their HIV status. Also, as options for HIV prevention expand with new technologies, we investigate if and how the campaign influences awareness, demand and use of HIV self-testing and PrEP among young people in South Africa, Cote d’Ivoire, and online communities

Meet the team

The evaluation is a collaboration between the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in the UK, Epicentre Health Research in South Africa, and ENSEA and Université Alassane Ouattara de Bouaké in Cote d’Ivoire. The project is funded by Unitaid via a grant to the MTV Staying Alive Foundation

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About MTV Shuga Evaluation 2 columns
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Tremendous progress against to reduce HIV incidence over the last 15 years has inspired a global commitment to end the epidemic by 2030. However, globally, progress made to improve knowledge of HIV status is slower than progress in other areas of the treatment and prevention cascades. This is particularly true for young people aged 15–24 years, an important demographic group for the global goal to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030, yet less likely than older adults to know their HIV status. Closing those gaps requires that a higher priority be placed on interventions to improve knowledge of HIV transmission and prevention, comprehensive prevention services and HIV testing, in particular among young people. Long distances to testing facilities, long queues to access services and fear of stigma and discrimination act as barriers to HIV testing, especially among young people. HIV self-screening (HIVSS) can play an important role in addressing these barriers and in achieving the ‘first 90%’ target by moving the locus of testing from health facilities to community settings and providing a discreet and convenient way to screen for HIV. Set in South Africa, the MTV Shuga “Down South season 2” multi-media campaign, broadcast in 2019 and 2020, aimed to raise awareness of and create demand for HIVSS, as well as PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV) and other prevention strategies, among young audiences under age 25 years.

MTV Shuga - the "media first" campaign

The mission of MTV Staying Alive Foundation is to “equip young people with the knowledge, confidence and resources to make informed choices about their sexual and reproductive health and avert HIV”. In 2009, MTV SAF launched the first season of MTV Shuga, an award-winning TV drama that blends HIV and sexual health messaging with entertaining stories to which young people can relate. To date, there have been 9 seasons of MTV Shuga, produced in Kenya, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, and South Africa. Also, an Indian series, called MTV Nishedh, aired in 2020. 

MTV Shuga is centred on TV drama series portraying the lives of young people, and incorporates complementary media to increase engagement with broader audiences and populations underserved by TV. Additional elements based on the TV series include a radio drama, a graphic novel, digital and social media, and peer education. Utilising multiple media, a highly popular, youth-relevant brand, and relatable characters and storylines, it has experienced ever-increasing reach and popularity.  The content is distributed license-cleared and cost-free to global broadcasters.

Set again in South Africa in 2019/2020, MTV Shuga Down South season 2 targets young people with HIV prevention, HIV self-screeningSS, PrEP and HIV treatment as predominant themes. The campaign focusses on the existence and benefits of HIVSS; shows the administration of an HIVSS kit on-screen; highlights the importance of follow-up testing and treatment following a positive diagnosis from HIVSS; PrEP, condoms and repeat testing for those testing negative. The aims of the MTV Shuga Down South 2 media campaign are to simultaneously raise awareness of and create demand for HIVSS, PrEP and other prevention strategies among young people aged 15-24 years, while steering audiences to HIV testing and prevention services.

Evaluation Design

The primary objective of the evaluation study is to assess the effect of the MTV Shuga, and its wrap-around multi-media campaign, on the proportion of young people who know their HIV status. The secondary objectives are to evaluate the effect of the campaign on awareness of, demand for, and use of HIVSS, and awareness of PrEP among young people.

To generate evidence for an effect of the campaign, we triangulated data collected approximately 12 months after the campaign’s initial television broadcast. We conducted an online, cross-sectional survey with a target sample size of at least 2,250 young males and females aged 15-24 years. A qualitative study nested within the survey of young people, comprised of telephone in-depth interviews (IDIs) and virtual focus group discussions with young people and parents/guardians, and participant filmed observations.  Additionally, we reviewed routine data from HIVSS and PrEP distribution outlets. The study was conducted online in 2020, with a targeted focus on Mthatha, in the OR Tambo District, Eastern Cape. The data have been analysed, disseminated and applied to improve subsequent MTV Shuga campaigns and other multi-media and health promotion efforts targeting young people, particularly to help close the HIV testing gap.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, no face-to-face research methods were used. All methods were conducted via internet and phone platforms, to ensure the safety of all participants and researchers and to avoid contributing to transmission of SARS-Cov-2 in South Africa.

Meet the team
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London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, UK

  • Isolde Birdthistle is an Associate Professor of adolescent health and epidemiology and is the Co-PI of the MTV Shuga evaluation
  • Simon Cousens is a Professor of epidemiology and medical statistics and is the Co-PI for the MTV Shuga Evaluation
  • Sophie Sarrassat is an Assistant Professor at LSHTM, and an epidemiologist for the MTV Shuga evaluation.
  • Sarah Mulwa is a Research Fellow and doctoral student at LSHTM, and a statistician for the MTV Shuga evaluation
  • Venetia Baker is a Research Fellow at LSHTM and a qualitative researcher for the MTV Shuga evaluation
  • Antonio Duran Aparicio is a Project Coordinator at LSHTM and oversees the financial and administrative components of the MTV Shuga evaluation

Epicentre Health Research, South Africa

  • Cherie Cawood is the CEO of Epicentre Health Research in KwaZulu-Natal and is the South African PI for the MTV Shuga evaluation
  • David Khanyile is a Director at Epicentre Health Research and oversaw data collection and training for the MTV Shuga evaluation
  • Dominique O’Donnell is a data collection designer at epicentre and managed the online questionnaire for the MTV Shuga evaluation

Find out more on the Epicentre Health Research website.

Université Alassane Ouattara de Bouaké, Côte d'Ivoire

  • Francis Akindés, Superviseur scientifique 
  • Walter Kra, Sociologue et Coordonnateur opérationnelle 
  • Assistants de recherche: Esther Yao, Gervais Coffi, Dorgelès Gbeke, Agnès Noba

Ecole Nationale de Statistiques et d'Economie Appliquée (ENSEA), Côte d'Ivoire

  • Hugues Kouadio, Director
  • Rosine Mosso, Monitoring and Evaluation Officer
  • Jacques Esso, Research Officer


The evaluation is funded by the global health agency Unitaid and the MTV Staying Alive Foundation.

Publications and dissemination
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Related research: evaluation of MTV Shuga Down South in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa

Webinars and videos
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