07 Jun 2021

This year, 2021, marks the 40th anniversary of the discovery of HIV/AIDS. Since the first registered cases 40 years ago, it’s estimated that over 32 million lives have been lost to this terrible disease.

We know there have been so many stories of loss, suffering and heartbreak through the last four decades – and also too many about discrimination, prejudice, and stigma, which arguably caused so many setbacks in the research and fight against HIV during the earlier chapters of this timeline.

There’s been amazing medical progress across this time across diagnosis, treatment and prevention – the development of self-testing, PrEP, PEP, ARVs, and more effective condoms for both men and women. We also know despite that this monumental work, HIV still claims thousands of young lives every year, and is still the second biggest killer of young people worldwide. Given that many young people simply don’t have access to the health information or testing that they need, they are left at higher risk.

MTV Staying Alive remains firmly committed to doing everything we can to educate young people on how to stay healthy and reduce further transmission of HIV. As we look forward to the future, we also know how important it is to reflect – here’s a timeline noting the milestones achieved in the global fight against HIV and AIDS:

June 5,1981: The recorded illnesses and deaths of five previously healthy gay men in California, marks the sad beginning of this new, unknown disease.

1982: The first known case of HIV/AIDS in Africa is diagnosed in Uganda.

1986: Virus that causes AIDS is officially named “HIV”

1988: Inaugural World AIDS Day launches on December 1st, creating a launchpad for fundraising and awareness all over the world

1991: The Red Ribbon Project creates the internationally recognized symbol for AIDS awareness

1998: The Emmy-Award winning Staying Alive documentary hosted by George Michael airs on MTV, sparking the creation of the MTV Staying Alive Foundation.

2000: United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) include controlling HIV/AIDS – forming a blueprint agreed to by all the world’s countries and all the world’s leading development institutions

2003: Nelson Mandela appeared on a Staying Alive Special, “Meeting Mandela”, sharing his life story to five young people on camera, and one of whom was our very own Henry Luyumba – activist and now MTV Staying Alive Board Member & Vice Chair.

2005: MTV Staying Alive Foundation distributed its first grant to young community leaders trying to combat HIV/AIDS

2009: Our very first series of MTV Shuga, our flagship campaign, launches in Kenya, featuring Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o. At the centre of our coming-of-age drama series we explore all things healthy about sex and relationships, including HIV.

2010: MTV Staying Alive Foundation wins the Edutainment Africa Award for our work in Kenya.

2011: MTV RE:DEFINE first launches in Dallas Texas, a multi-year art-auction which will go on to raise millions of dollars for MTV Staying Alive.

2012: The FDA approves the first at-home HIV test, making testing more accessible and ensuring that thousands more people will know their HIV status

2013: An estimated 35 million people worldwide are living with HIV. MTV Shuga: Naija launches in Nigeria – ensuring that we can reach even more young people than ever before as our SHRH messaging engages young people across the country, and further into Sub-Saharan Africa.

2016: An independent study by the World Bank shows that young people who watch MTV Shuga are TWICE as likely to seek testing after watching the show. The report also found a 58 percent reduction of chlamydia among female viewers, safer sex and improved knowledge about HIV transmission and testing.

2017: We launch in South Africa with MTV Shuga: Down South – and soon after follows our South African Peer Education programme – where young community leaders are upskilled and trained to drive our health messaging further into local communities.

2019: MTV Shuga: Babi launches in Côte d’Ivoire – our very first Francophone season.

2020: We launch our first ever campaign in India – MTV Nishedh. As well as featuring storylines focused on sexual and reproductive health, we also include messaging on TB and nutrition – issues which are sadly major health issues for Indian youth.

2021 and beyond: Our work continues – we know from independent evaluation that we’re driving serious behavioural changes and helping to prevent HIV transmission. By increasing testing and encouraging proper contraceptive use, we can continue our vital work in the fight against HIV.