July 20, 2012 | The Editors

Sexy series aims for an HIV-free generation

First published on March 6, 2012.

By all outward appearances, Vio’s got a great life. She’s smart, young, beautiful—and she just got offered a great job writing a column for a hip Nairobi magazine, SWAG. Why, then, is she so worried about telling her dad that she’s got a new job?

Vio’s got a secret, and how she comes to terms with it and other aspects of the wild life in Nairobi make the television drama Shuga: Love, Sex, Money an irresistible way to get young people to think about love, relationships . . . and safe sex.

Shuga: Love, Sex, Money is produced through the Partnership for an HIV-Free Generation, which is housed at PATH, under the partnership’s youth lifestyle campaign, G-PANGE. The series, now entering its second season, was funded by the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. Producers worked closely with the Government of Kenya to incorporate key messages young people can relate to in the series.

Shuga, which features a cast of red-hot African actors and an Oscar-winning directing team, addresses the thorny issues of sexual health head-on, confronting taboos such as rape and sex-for-gifts through the tangled love lives of its characters. The half-hour series will look familiar to viewers used to cable television’s racier productions. But there’s a difference: this time the setting is the flashy and fascinating streets of Nairobi. And this time, the characters sometimes stop to ponder the potentially devastating consequences of their actions.

Armband with red HIV ribbon.
Photo: PATH/CY Gopinath.

Something else is different, too. While the series itself is relentlessly entertaining, it’s also being used in HIV-prevention programs for youth. A Shuga toolkit, consisting of the two TV series and a discussion guide, is available to spread the message to a broad audience, including those who have limited access to television.

Shuga will be shown in more than 70 countries around the world. To learn more—and catch up on episodes so far, including the one in which Vio reveals her secret—see the Shuga TV website or join the discussion on the G-PANGE Generation Facebook page.

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