Intersexions is a South African television drama series produced by Quizzical Pictures in partnership with Johns Hopkins Health and Education in South Africa (JHHESA) and SABC Education, featuring independent but interrelated stand-alone episodes that follow the AIDS infection chain.
Although Intersexions does not present itself as an overtly HIV/AIDS drama series, it looks at the lives and loves of those infected and affected by the HIV virus as well as the circumstances of their contracting the virus and the relationships in their lives.
The series tells 25 inter-connected but independent stories that start and end with Episode 1, bringing the series-arc full-circle.
The series starts with a wedding in a well-to-do suburb North of Johannesburg. The wife, Mandisa, dressing for her wedding, hears on the radio that a well-known DJ is dying of an AIDS-related illness.
She freezes. The DJ had been her lover five years before. With this story, we begin our journey through the chain of transmission of the HIV virus.
Episode 2 is the story of Mandisa and the DJ five years before. Episode 3 is the story of the DJ and his other lover Boitumelo. Episode 4 tells the story of Boitumelo and Thami. And so on.
Each episode takes us closer and closer to understanding the interconnectedness of our sexual networks. We begin our story thinking that Mandisa, the wife, has infected her husband. But by the end of the series, we see how everyone is part of a complex network of transmission.
The virus has traveled full circle. The virus has touched all of their lives and consequently ours too. Because of the prevalence of multiple and concurrent partnerships, we all find ourselves somewhere along the line in a linked chain of potential infection.
Episode 26 breaks form and reveals, quite explicitly in a documentary format, the network we have been exploring throughout the series.
Told with a mixture of live-action and animation, as well as referring to the characters we have met, it starts by taking us back to the wedding we encountered at the beginning of the series.
It carefully shows who is related to whom – not only by blood, but through the virus. It then pulls out – as if looking through the eyes of God, and takes a wider and wider picture of the sexual network in the society.
Intersexions takes 25 "bites" out of the lives of ordinary people in South Africa and zooms in on a small narrative in their lives. Sometimes the stories explore the relationship which infected them. Sometimes the virus hits a dead-end.
Intersexions traces the movement of the virus as though it were a person, alive, fluid and able to move between and through different worlds.
The full spectrum of worlds and characters in the series allows us to reflect the broad range of African and spoken languages in South Africa and cuts through class, race and age barriers.
The first season of Intersexions received 23 nominations at the sixth annual South African Film and Television Awards (SAFTAs). It won 11 awards, including Best TV Drama Series.
The award-winning Intersexions is back for a second season with more gripping story lines that further explore often taboo issues on HIV/AIDS love, sex and relationships.
The second season maintains the same format of interlinked episodes but differs from Season 1 as it shows how that which remains unsaid in our personal and sexual relationships places us at risk of HIV infection.
For the second season, the production went back and consulted widely via community dialogues with over 2,000 people and received input from the Intersexions Facebook page and focus groups.
It reviewed studies and media reports on issues relating to love, sex and HIV/AIDS to come up with storylines that are gripping yet real in bringing to the fore society's unspoken issues on relationships.
The programme continues to drum home the over-arching message of responsible sexual behaviour, HIV testing and TB screening, condom use and reduction of multiple partners.
The cast of the second season features over a hundred new actors and actresses. Some of the new talent, recruited as part of the Intersexions Open Auditions in August and September 2012 during which over 5,000 hopefuls auditioned for the show, are unveiled for the first time.
Intersexions aims to use the series as a platform to develop new talent on every level. Many of the episode directors are first time directors and the writing team and cast of actors is full of new and fresh faces.
Intersexions is a collaborative partnership between SABC1, SABC Education and Johns Hopkins Health and Education in SA (JHHESA). It is produced by Quizzical Pictures and AntS Multimedia with research undertaken by CADRE.
The series is jointly funded by USAID/JHU HIV Communication Programme, PEPFAR and the Department of Trade and Industry.