Siri ya Mtungi's (SyM) impact on Tanzania is undeniable. It has experienced wild popularity, with audiences demanding more. SyM will continue to impact on Tanzanian society for decades. It has been described by the Mnet media organization as, “the ever green series” – one that will be watched over and over again for many years to come. SyM will continue to be consumed commercially on its’ entertainment value and encourage positive behavior change along the way for many years to come. The series will also increasingly be used by health and media professionals in the context of training and learning.
The Tanzania Capacity and Communication Project (TCCP) wanted to understand the impact of SyM beyond its entertainment value and popularity, to determine whether and how it has changed the behaviors of its audience members. To assess the impact of SyM season 1 on the knowledge, attitudes, and practices of its viewers, a national, structured, household-based cross-sectional project midline survey was conducted in April 2014. The impact of SyM as a whole will be further understood following the complete analysis of data collected for TCCP’s endline evaluation.
The 2014 survey found the 15% of women and 18.4% of men aged 15-49 had been exposed to Siri ya Mtungi in the past 6 months. Significant predictors of exposure included age, location, education, household wealth, and being Christian. Gender, employment, being monogamously married, other religions, and having children were not significant predictors of exposure.
Those who were exposed were able to identify the effects of concurrent partnerships, in general, as the main theme as the show. Exposure to Season 1 was also significantly associated with a more positive view of condoms, and those exposed were 24.6% more likely to have improved condom attitudes scale in the propensity score matching analysis. Compared to those that hadn’t seen the show, audience members experienced an increase in self-efficacy for sexual protection, an increase in communication around risky sexual behaviors, and a decrease in accepting views of multiple concurrent partnerships. However, the evaluation did not demonstrate that exposure to SYM1 increased HIV prevention knowledge, increased likelihood of ever testing for HIV, talking to a partner about HIV testing, nor condom use at last sex with primary partner.
It’s worth noting that these findings reflect changes that took place prior to the airing of season 2, the “pay-off” season, in which characters decide to change their behaviors.