’My first HIV test was live on camera for MTV Shuga – it was easy and fast, and not scary at all!’
Actress Dorcas Shola-Fapson, who starred as lead character Sophie in season three and four of the award winning TV series MTV Shuga, is lending her support to National HIV Testing Week by encouraging people to get tested .
MTV Shuga looks at the lives of young people who find themselves unexpectedly dealing with various issues with HIV being a main one. The show, which is very popular amongst many young people worldwide, has helped to improve awareness of HIV, bust myths and get people testing for the virus.
‘In places like Nigeria, where MTV Shuga’s season three and four were set and filmed, HIV can often be swept under the rug. People still wrongly think that you can’t touch or hug people with HIV and that it’s a death sentence, but this is not true. Today HIV is a treatable condition that you can live well with – but you need to test, know you have it and get treatment.
‘As a public figure who has had an active role in one of the leading TV programmes on HIV I’m delighted and feel it’s important to be able to encourage people to join in with National HIV Testing Week.’
National HIV Testing Week encourages people, including black Africans, to test for HIV and know their status. Black Africans are disproportionately affected by HIV, with more than half diagnosed late, putting their health in danger.
‘I didn’t know much about HIV before my involvement with MTV Shuga,’ added Dorcas, who was raised in north London and auditioned for her role while in New York.
‘This is because we don’t always have the education and awareness about what HIV is really like in 2017. But the show really opened my eyes. Many people think they have a good understanding of HIV, but more needs to be done.’
As one of the faces of the National HIV Testing Week campaign, Dorcas is calling for people to get tested during the week, and not put it off.
‘My first ever HIV test was live on camera as part of the show. I was a little nervous because I thought they were going to have to take a lot of blood, but in fact it was just a little finger prick – really easy, simple and fast. It’s actually wasn’t scary at all.
‘National HIV Testing Week is a great way to remind people of the importance of testing. You can sometimes forget or put it to one side, but it’s vital. Loads of people will be testing during the week, so you are not alone. Together we can make a change by testing.’
MTV Shuga has won many awards including African Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards 2015. Now in its fifth season, it’s reached over 550 million people. Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o was the star of the first season before her major breakthrough in Hollywood.
‘MTV Shuga is all about breaking down the stigma around HIV. I think people can look at my character Sophie and learn from her. She made mistakes that many young people make, and she provides an opportunity to reflect on some of the things they might be doing.
‘The show definitely provokes conversation. A lot of my friends live here in London and I think they tend to view HIV as something that only happens in Africa or within the gay community.
‘However, because the show focuses on normal people from different walks of life people can relate to the characters and understand how HIV can affect anyone, anywhere.’