Documents produced by Catholic Relief Services (CRS), and obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), reveal that CRS exposed over 3,000 teens to a video series promoting condom use. CRS implemented this program in a PEPFAR-funded project called “Support and Assistance to Indigenous Implementing Agencies” (SAIDIA).
At the end of 2011, CRS filed the SAIDIA annual report to PEPFAR for year three of the project. Population Research Institute and the Lepanto Institute obtained this and other documents from PEPFAR through the Freedom of Information Act. Page 141 of the FOIA documents, which is page 5 of the CRS-SAIDIA Annual Report Sept. 2010-2011, labels Shuga an “Abstinence and Be Faithful” (AB) program. CRS said, “The other intervention used during the project year was Shuga. It is a video based intervention that targets youth. This intervention was phased out towards the end of quarter three.” See exhibit A.
On page 142, CRS praises Shuga as a service provision that has “added value” to the AB programs. But the most telling evidence comes on page 155, where CRS indicates that it exposed 3,375 kids to Shuga. See exhibit B.
Even though CRS indicated that it “phased out” Shuga in the third quarter of Year 3 of the SAIDIA project, CRS’s grant application in 2012 for year 5, found on page 342 of the FOIA documents, suggests using series 1 and 2 of Shuga as an EBI to reach kids missed by the Healthy Choices and Families Matter Program.
But what is Shuga? In February of 2010, PEPFAR issued a press release explaining its partnership with MTV in producing Shuga, describing what it is. PEPFAR said that Shuga is a three part mini-series “produced by MTV in partnership with PEPFAR and UNICEF, [and] focuses on a group of friends exploring the complexities of love in Nairobi, Kenya. But unlike many other dramas targeting this audience, ‘Shuga’ depicts characters in situations that force them to confront the risk of HIV infection and illustrates to viewers that a positive HIV test result is not a death sentence.”
Shuga series 1, which is the series that was available to CRS in 2010, is highly immoral and should never have been used by a Catholic agency. Each episode is about 25 minutes in length, and follows several story lines of young adults engaging in various sexual relationships and spotlighting the risk of contracting HIV. Aside from the heavy promotion of condom use throughout the series, the episodes promote promiscuity, include heavy sex scenes, women in their underwear, and many scenes of sexually lewd discussions and sexually suggestive dancing. The point of the series is to normalize promiscuous relationships and encourage the use of condoms. Given that the entire program consists only of three videos, there is no way CRS could have implemented a sanitized version of Shuga. Furthermore, CRS stretches its own credibility beyond the breaking point by calling Shuga an “AB” program.
There was nothing to promote abstinence in the program at all, condoms are heavily promoted as a fail-safe against HIV, and the “be faithful” component is undercut by the risk of not using condoms. In short, Shuga is nothing but a 75 minute condom commercial that actually makes an even better case for casual sex than for condoms. And CRS said in its own documents that it exposed over 3,000 kids to this program, and recommended its use again for year 5 of the SAIDIA project.
Since CRS’s own documents reveal that CRS implemented these two programs, and the programs cannot be reduced to some sanitized versions that remove the promotion of condoms (because that is the entire point of the programs themselves), then CRS’s hurried dismissal of having implemented Healthy Choices II and PMTCT (as indicated in the PRI-Lepanto report) is automatically cast into doubt. CRS claims that with Healthy Choices II, it implemented a sanitized version of the program, stripping out all elements which promote condoms and contraception. However, students who went through CRS’s implemented Healthy Choices II program reported learning about contraception. And given that CRS had no problem showing Shuga to 3,000 kids, CRS’s claim that its programs are always in line with Catholic teaching, as they did with Healthy Choices II, is not credible.
To see what CRS exposed 3,000 kids to, episodes 1, 2, and 3 are provided below: