New Research Reveals MTV, UNICEF and PEPFAR's Ignite Campaign has Altered Young People's Thinking About HIV/AIDS Attitudes and Behaviours

Johns Hopkins Research provides support that shows like Shuga and Tribes can lead to behaviour change in young people

Research is first multi-country study of its kind to be commissioned by a broadcaster

Ignite campaign increased viewers intentions to test for HIV in Kenya, Zambia and Trinidad

Ignite partners announce commitment to develop Shuga II

Jul 20, 2010, 03:00 ET from MTV

VIENNA, July 20 /PRNewswire/ -- INTERNATIONAL AIDS CONFERENCE 2010 -- MTV, the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and UNICEF today unveiled at INTERNATIONAL AIDS CONFERENCE 2010, new research on its Staying Alive Ignite Campaign at, which found that creating compelling pro-social entertainment for young people can positively impact attitudes and behaviour towards HIV and AIDS.

MTV, with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, commissioned Johns Hopkins University to evaluate the Project Ignite HIV prevention and education campaign, MTV Staying Alive's TV drama series Shuga, Africa's hard-hitting drama for young people with compelling HIV prevention and education messages. Shuga was launched in   Kenya and Zambia. In Trinidad and Tobago MTV's drama series was Tribes. The combination of both shows reached youth in 96% of the Top 50 HIV/AIDS impacted countries working with over 85 broadcasters in over 100 countries.

The award-winning multi-million dollar Project Ignite campaign is a comprehensive and integrated media campaign aiming to put the spotlight on young peoples' sexual behaviour to stimulate awareness, lessen stigma to allow open discussions about the issue and ultimately reduce the rate of new HIV infections among young people under 25.

The Ignite campaign reached 64% of the youth population in Nairobi, Kenya.  Over 80% of those who saw Shuga believed it changed their thinking about multiple concurrent partners, HIV testing and stigma associated with HIV.

The Johns Hopkins study, the first multi-country study of its kind to be commissioned by a broadcaster, shows that young people understand the messages conveyed in Shuga, that young people talk about HIV issues after seeing the programme. Among those young people who have seen the programme, those who like and find the storylines realistic are more likely to change their attitudes and behavioural intentions around HIV and AIDS (towards healthier attitudes and behaviours).

Bill Roedy, Chairman and Chief Executive of MTV Networks International, said: "Young people are leading the HIV prevention revolution and as infection still out paces access to treatment, it's more critical than ever to focus on high impact prevention initiatives .The Johns Hopkins research reaffirms the effectiveness of our Staying Alive programmes. We have seen that creating programs like Shuga and Tribes for young people can influence behaviour change as it relates to HIV. These results make us determined and completely committed to continuing our campaigns globally. We are deeply grateful to our partners UNICEF, PEPFAR, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Johns Hopkins for joining us in this effort."  

Said Ambassador Eric Goosby, PEPFAR: "PEPFAR, through the Partnership for an HIV-Free Generation, is pleased to partner with MTV, UNICEF and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop compelling media with technically sound messages that clearly resonate with young people worldwide. Shuga's success, as evidenced by the evaluation, validates the product of this partnership. We look forward to building on this evidence."

Added Jimmy Kolker, chief of HIV and AIDS for UNICEF: "Preventing new HIV infections among young people requires more knowledge, but even more important, changes in behaviour and attitudes," said.  "Shuga has been successful because it presents realistic information in a way that adolescents see as relevant to their own lives and behaviours."


  • Among a sample of 1,000 young people in Nairobi; 60% of youth in Kenya had seen Shuga  (compared to more typical reach seen in Trinidad & Tobago (8% of youth throughout the country) and  Zambia (4% of youth in Lusaka).
  • Young people knew the main issues addressed in the show.  Those who saw the program could identify the lessons to be learned.
  • Almost 50% (of viewer group participants) talked about the Shuga characters and messages – mainly with close friends, but also with family members and other acquaintances.
  • Among the Nairobi youth who were aware of and had seen the campaign and programme, over 70% had talked about Shuga's characters and messages with others.
  • Over 90% of the Kenyan participants believed the show had an impact on their thinking, around 50 to 60% of the youth in the Zambia panel.
  • Among those who had seen the show in Kenya, 84% said the show had an impact on multiple partners, 85% for HIV testing and 87% about living with HIV.

Kenyan participants said they were more likely to take an HIV test after watching Shuga

  • Two to three months before the show the average intention was 6.5/10.  After the show it was 7.3/10.
  • Attitudes changed surrounding stigma and living with HIV. The intention to be friends with someone who was HIV positive was 6.2/10 before the show and was 7.7/10 after the show.
  • In T&T those who watched Tribes had more sympathetic attitudes towards PLWA (people living with HIV/AIDS) based on how much they liked the show and depicted relationships to be realistic
  • In T&T those who watched the show had a decreased intention to be in a concurrent relationship based on how much they liked the show and depicted relationships to be realistic

Shuga first aired in November 2009 on MTV Base. Filmed in Nairobi it is the hard-hitting TV drama series that aims to lift the lid on the reckless sex lives and loves of young Kenyans and their partners.  

Funded by Staying Alive, PEPFAR, and UNICEF, the drama series is part of the pioneering multimedia campaign called MTV Staying Alive Ignite – designed to motivate sexually active youth and young adults to modify their sexual behaviour.  The initiative complements the PEPFAR supported public-private partnership HIV-FREE GENERATION, which aims to reduce HIV infections in young people. 

The drama series consists of three concurrent but interlinked storylines, following the complicated sex lives of a group of 'cool' Kenyan students.

Tribes aired on World AIDS Day in December 2009 and is a hard-hitting drama set in Port of Spain which aims to shine a spotlight on stigma and discrimination of people living with HIV/AIDS as well as address multiple concurrent relationships in Trinidad.

For more information on Shuga and the associated MTV Staying Alive Ignite campaign, including behind the scenes clips, biogs and cast go to or follow us on or

For press materials on Shuga please go to:

Notes to Editors:


Launched in 1998, Staying Alive is a multimedia global HIV and AIDS prevention campaign that challenges stigma and discrimination associated with HIV and AIDS as well as empowers young people to protect themselves from infection.  The Emmy award-winning campaign consists of documentaries, public service announcements, youth forums and Web content.  Staying Alive provides all its television programming rights-free and at no cost to third party broadcasters globally to get crucial prevention messages out to the widest possible audience.  The Staying Alive campaign has a long term partnership between MTV Networks International, UNICEF, UNAIDS, and others.  More information about Staying Alive can be found at  MTV Networks International is also an active member of the United Nations-supported Global Media AIDS Initiative (GMAI).  


MTV Networks International, a division of Viacom, Inc., includes the premier multimedia entertainment brands MTV: Music Television, VH1, Nickelodeon, TMF (The Music Factory), VIVA, Flux, Paramount Comedy, Comedy Central, Game One, Neopets, GameTrailers, Shockwave, Addicting Games, Atom Films and Xfire. MTV Networks' brands are seen globally in 578 million households, in 162 countries and 33 languages via 166 locally programmed and operated TV channels and more than 350 digital media properties. The company's diverse holdings also include interests in television syndication, digital media, publishing, home video, radio, recorded music, licensing & merchandising and two feature film divisions, MTV Films and Nickelodeon Movies. MTV Networks is a unit of Viacom Inc. (NYSE: VIA, VIA.B).


UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world's largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.


The U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is the U.S. Government initiative to support partner nations around the world in responding to HIV/AIDS. It was launched in 2003, and is the largest commitment by any nation to combat a single disease internationally in history. The human impact of America's investment in partner nations' efforts is profound. PEPFAR has directly supported life-saving antiretroviral treatment for over 2.4 million men, women and children, and care for more than 11 million people, including more than 4 million orphans and vulnerable children. PEPFAR's efforts around prevention of mother-to-child transmission programs have allowed nearly 340,000 babies of HIV-positive mothers to be born HIV-free. PEPFAR is the cornerstone and largest component of the President's Global Health Initiative. This Initiative supports partner countries in improving health outcomes through strengthened health systems, with a particular focus on improving the health of women, newborns and children through programs that address a range of health issues. For more information, please visit,, or

The Partnership for an HIV-Free Generation is a PEPFAR supported public-private partnership. The public-private partnership uses tools of the information age and the core competencies of the private sector to accelerate HIV/AIDS awareness programs and prevention outcomes for youth age 10-24. Building on private sector expertise and the technical knowledge of PEPFAR and its prevention partners, this public-private partnership focuses on promoting positive behaviour change, linking young people to economic opportunities and skills, and empowering youth to make healthy choices for a HIV-Free future.