Taboo-Breaking African TV Show Confronting Unsafe Sex and HIV
Emmanuel Ikubese knew the TV drama in which he starred was having an impact the day a stranger walked up to him and thanked him for saving her life.
The girl told Ikubese, who plays Femi in the serial Shuga, she had watched a crucial episode just before she and her boyfriend decided to embark on a sexual relationship.
“She said they had not yet had sex but were planning a weekend in Mombasa and they had been watching Shuga where Femi finds out about his HIV status and they decided to go and get tested,” said Georgia Arnold, executive director of MTV’s philanthropic arm, which makes the show.
It was that storyline, the girl believed, that saved her life, because her boyfriend had HIV.
Arnold has heard many similar stories in the years since Shuga first broadcast in Kenya in 2009. The serial – which Arnold is keen to stress is not a soap – is made in Africa by Africans but produced by the MTV Staying Alive Foundation, a charity that provides grants and produces content to help prevent HIV.
“It’s an African version of Skins, but with sexual health messages running through it,” she says. It’s primary purpose is to educate, inform and encourage people to talk and get help in countries where HIV is a heavy and sometimes secret burden; where young girls are often under emotional or financial pressure to have sex and the is no equality of gender or age.
- Health Care