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Sesame Street to Introduce HIV-Positive Muppet

Discussion in 'Sesame Worlds' started by Phillip, Jul 11, 2002.

  1. Phillip

    Phillip Administrator Staff Member

    Sesame Street to Introduce HIV-Positive Muppet
    Courtesy of Reuters

    Sesame Street will soon introduce its first HIV positive Muppet character to children of South Africa, where one in nine people have the virus that can lead to AIDS.

    The upbeat female Muppet will join "Takalani Sesame" on Sept. 30 for its third season on the South African Broadcasting Corp.

    The character -- which has yet to have a name or final color or form -- will travel to many if not all of the eight other nations that air versions of the educational children's show that began in the United States in 1969, said Joel Schneider, vice president and senior adviser to the Sesame Street Workshop.

    Schneider said talks are under way to introduce an HIV-positive character to U.S. viewers.

    Schneider announced the new character this week at the 14th International AIDS Conference in Barcelona, Spain, where he spoke by telephone on Thursday.

    "This character will be fully a part of the community," Schneider said. "She will have high self-esteem. Women are often stigmatized about HIV and we are providing a good role model as to how to deal with one's situation and how to interact with the community."

    The program is aimed at children from 3 to 7 and the messages delivered by the new character will be "appropriate," said Schneider, meaning that there will be no explicit mention of sex.

    "Not every show will deal explicitly with HIV/AIDS," Schneider said. "We want to show that here is an HIV-positive member of our community who you can touch and interact with.

    "We will be very careful to fashion our messages so they are appropriate to the age group. What do I do when I cut my finger? What do I do when you cut your finger? That sort of thing."

    "Takalani Sesame" will be the second children's show in South Africa to have an HIV-positive character. But it is believed to be the first among shows designed for preschoolers, said Beatrice Chow, spokeswoman for the Sesame Street Workshop in New York.

    In some parts of South Africa, 40 percent of women of child-bearing age are infected with HIV, and in 2000, about 40 percent of adult deaths in South Africa were attributed to AIDS, according to the State Department.
  2. MuppetQuilter

    MuppetQuilter Member

    Wow! This is great! What a powerful message this Muppet could send about acceptance and empathy and looking at the person and not the disease.

    I hope she comes to the US. She would probably be a good way to educate people about how safe it really is to have HIV+ friends. There are plenty of kids with AIDS and HIV in this country who could use a positive role model as well as a little understanding from the rest of us.
  3. Luke

    Luke Active Member

    Actually, while i'm not totally objecting to this kind of thing being introduced in South Africa where as it says, 40 per cent of women at child bearing age have HIV, i would be against this being introduced in the USA as a permanent character.

    HIV is obviously from the facts above, a lot more common in South Africa and therefore it's even more important for a child in S.Africa to need to know more about it, because chances are they might be living with it in their family or community. Because it is so common the attitude there is a lot more casual about Aids/HIV and a lot more freely talked about.

    While it might be the same for a child in the USA to be living around or being in contact with someone who has HIV/Aids it is a lot less widely discussed with children, and (not saying whether this is right or wrong) some parents attitudes are likely to be a lot more reserved about exposing their kids to this kind of thing. Obviously, it is upto the parents what they allow their child to watch but i think that featuring a HIV positive character permanently would be a mistake because it might mean a lot of parents switch Sesame Street off forever in their households and that'll be a shame, especially with all the other educational value the show has. If they were going to introduce it in the USA i would be in favor of them using the character for a few special episodes clearly advertised so that parents could decide whether or not they wanted their kids to watch, then just write the character out so that the message was delivered to those who wanted it delivered, and those who didn't could get back to watching Sesame Street.
  4. beaker

    beaker Well-Known Member

    Well, quite frankly AIDS p*sses me off. It cost us one of the greatest puppeteers ever, as well as various sport and screen legends. When I heard the study about Africa being riddled
    with AIDS it made me shocked and saddened.

    This Sesame Street news...for one. Its no secret even the president of S. Africa has seemed majorly ignorant on the issue of AIDS, thinking HIV doesnt neccecerily cuase AIDS.

    I will admit, when I saw this headline posted on toughpigs, I thought 'great, all we need is more fake bert and bin laden type humour'. But when I read the standings and the facts, it sounds important.

    But Luke, I have another point...I personally do not give a rats behind what American parents think about their kid' s being 'exposed' to such a thing. I mean were tlaking about a country where so many people are shacked up in their Gap and Pottery Barn with nary a national centric care to *gasp* things outside their cul-de-sac. People think AIDS went out the skinny tie and Dynasty reruns. I mean the fact misinformed parents protested for Bert and Ernie beign supposedly gay shows you just how backwards people's mentality still is.

    And I hate to say it, but this should stay a S. African segment of Sesame...let's not kid ourselves. This kind of character introduced to the US? And you thought there was an uproar over Bert and Ernie's supposed lifestyle? This beyond the fact the press and Muppet detractors would have a field day with this news piece.

    Why does AIDS **** me off? Because its freaking 2002 and it seems like 1982 on the AIDS front. The government of the US and across the globe would rather spend infinit billions on stockpiling weapons than actually face up to an ever mounting plague.
    Let's face it, not only does the African government not care,
    but sadly for the children their own parents dont care it would seem. A frollic in the hut without any thinking seems to be the order of the day. S afirca, Sudan, Uganda, etc. A continent where 8 year old Sierra Leone boys are trained to kill and a continent the world forgot and cares nothing about...well goodness,
    forget the rumors of AIDS originating in Africa. It appears that over 2 decades later the world has turned a blind eye such an alarming an dobvious epidemic.

    So...it seems once again Sesame international is up to the task at taking on extremely volatile subjects in the world eye where the governments wont.

    This illustrates that Jim Henson's vision is farther reaching and hahs more b*lls to tackle something than even the governments of the world.
  5. MuppetQuilter

    MuppetQuilter Member

    I completely disagree. A lot of people were offended by integrating public schools in the 50s. A lot of parents didn't feel it was appropriate to discuss such things with children. I don't think we do the world any favors by catering to such beliefs.

    Yes, some people will be uncomfortable with it-- but that is precisely the reason it is needed. People, of all ages, need to understand that HIV is not spread through casual contact and that it is not acceptable to shun people who have it. The reality is the kids watching Sesame Street today are going to have to deal with it. In the US HIV is spreading fastest among middle class women (my information may be about a year out of date-- so don't quote me on that). People need to understand the disease. They need to understand that people with HIV are in fact PEOPLE. Sesame Street has a history of tackling tough subjects that a lot of people don't like to bring up. Just having all those people and Muppets from different backgrounds interacting featured on a television show in the early 70s was pretty dramatic and there are still people who assume Sesame Street is just for inner-city kids.

    I say, go for it! Show kids how to be accepting and safe at the same time. Show parents that kids with diseases and potential diseases are still kids who need to run and play and learn to count. I'm sure it will ruffle a few feathers (sorry, no pun intended) but Sesame Street would undoubtably do it with a great deal of grace and care. We're not talking high school health class here. We're talking about three year olds playing with other three year olds and respecting differences. Sesame Street will win over the doubters and the folks who would turn it off entirely, well, they probably never turned it on for other reasons.

    When we, as a society, begin censoring ourselves so as not to offend the prejudiced and uneducated, we open the door for a whole lot of horror. I feel we have an obligation to ourselves, each other, and most especially our children to educate those who do not understand and stand up and fight for all humans to be treated with dignity and respect.

    Okay, I'll get off my high horse now.
  6. Luke

    Luke Active Member

    Yup, more or less agreed, but the point is that when we are talking about 3 to 7 year old minors, parents need to have the CHOICE without the whole show becoming off limits to them. It is basically their legal right !

    Being minors the viewers are not responsible for themselves and therefore should not have a subject like this thrust upon them without those who are responsible for them agreeing. If this doesn't happen i absolutely guarantee you one high profile case of a parent taking Sesame Workshop to court for educating her child about a sexually related disease without parental permission. Sesame in court won't exactly be great publicity for a kids show.

    It may well be useful for the kids to know about it or deal with it, but legally they don't yet decide these things for themselves and their parents are entitled to make those decisions for them whether those turn out to be right or wrong.
  7. monkeymuppet

    monkeymuppet New Member

    I think that this is one of the best things Sesame Street has done. People need to know about this disease and if many adults are too stubborn to get educated, starting with children is great. Now the people that are most at risk of getting infected are the ones that think that they aren't in the risk group( gay, drug users, from Africa).... It might be better if Sesame Street chose a different character for other countries. Having a character from South Africa is good, but since many people believe that they cant get HIV if they are in a "risk group" this might not be a good thing.
    Is this a good thing or bad thing??
    I'm confusing myself. Let me sleep on it and I'll finish typing my reply later.

  8. beaker

    beaker Well-Known Member

    Leave it too JHC intl. to be the one that steps up to the plate to tackle this subject! Sadly, I think people still have misinformed concepts regarding HIV/AIDS. Now then, what I was saying was, the feel of what Reuters article contained, it seems this is designed for the Afircan Sesame Street. Believe me, if Sesame Workshop in the US felt it was neccesary they would introduce this character. The situation in Africa seems a bit urgent.

    Now, my question...why are so many people retarded? And I dont mean mentally handicapped. I mean, so retarded they are ignorant to the hows and why of AIDS still in the year of 2002,
    therefore continuing to spread it...and also to the powers that be over funding(governments, etc) and of course the average perception of this disease.

    As for parents being able to control what their kid's watch and take in for std related matters...is this really a sexually transmitted matter when the kid has it? Then it becomes genetic, as in no way did the kid get it other than being born.

    The reality is this character will stay in Afirca for better or worse, because for various reasons...were talking about sesame usa, where "where Elmo left his pillow" seems to be of a more pending matter on the shiny happy ghetto bricks of 'the street'.
  9. monkeymuppet

    monkeymuppet New Member

    Ok. I do believe that this is a great thing. Is it really wrong when a topic like this is discussed around kids? Hopefully this will make all people aware. Go Sesame!

  10. frogboy4

    frogboy4 Inactive Member

    It is a changing world and AIDS is an unfortunate fact of life. It is my opinion that kids 3-7 years of age do not need to be introduced to any sort of sexuality, but they are placed in jeopardy when ignorant of important information such as AIDS. Kids are informed about cancer and this should be treated no differently!

    *To clear things up - as we all know, this is not only a sexual disease or one that affects only those in a particular way of life. *

    I completely disagree with maintaining some sort of conservative status quo of ignorance in children. If a parent sees fit not to expose their child of the issue then so be it - they'll have to lock their kid in a box. Sesame Street is a perfect place to discuss the issue appropriately and they have a wonderful track record in that department.
  11. MuppetQuilter

    MuppetQuilter Member

    Well said!

    A lot of people were concerned when Sesame Street decided to deal with 9/11. That turned out to be Elmo witnessing a grease fire, which was scary but not really life threatening and then being scared again by the fire fighters. He visited the fire station, got to see the people behind the suits, and learend all about the good things fire fighters do. Along the way kids learned they can turn to a fire fighter for help and not to be afraid if one approaches them in a scary situation. Completely age appropriate. Nothing was said about terrorism, death, or hatred. It was not political.

    I believe Sesame Street would do the same thing here. STDs would not be a part of the discussion. A Muppet would simply talk about one aspect of their life that can be scary, both to them and others, and everyone would learn to understand and help. Probably wouldn't be any different from the little girl who moved into the street who has braces on her legs and uses a wheel chair much of the time. The other characters ask, get a straight answer, and everyone moves on.

    Hiding from something doesn't make it go away. Way too many children in the US are HIV+ and as long as we (as a society) believe AIDS is something that happens to other people those numbers will continue to climb and those kids will continue to be hurt by our ignorance and fear. A hundred years ago people with mental and/or physical disablities were locked up in institutions and attics. Education is the only way to conquer those sorts of fears and kids are easier to educate than close minded adults.

    Yes, the situation is more dire in South Africa. But why wait till one in nine people is suffering to do something to help? We're not talking about a daily health lecture from Big Bird. We're talking about one or two episodes. Maybe a half hour of screen time. Sesame Street tackles this kind of thing all the time with ease and dignity. This is a no brainer to me.
  12. Aerosmith

    Aerosmith New Member

    I think this is a good thing kids need to know about it. Also Aids took the life of one of my favorite bands lead singer Freddie Mercury of Queen :(
  13. sstVideo

    sstVideo New Member

  14. FellowWLover

    FellowWLover Member

    Personally, I do not feel that it is necessary for SS to introduce a character with "HIV" in order to teach tolerance for those who are sick or otherwise "different". It would be unusual for a three-year-old to discriminate against or even acknowledge someone around them as "sick" unless they were exhibiting scary or confusing symptoms.

    IMO, it would be more useful for SS to show a hospital setting where a Muppet was ill in bed (perhaps hooked up to an IV or something) without specifing what the illness is. It is quite likely that little kids may have elderly grandparents or other relatives (even themselves of course) who are in a hospital, so this introducation would be useful and could be extended as the patient Muppet returns to the street (or I guess dies, but not sure that is the direction they want to go).

    Personally, I think that HIV is something that the SS age group (which is really 2 to 4 or 5 years old... face it) should not have to deal with. Kids who face it in everday life (and certainly in Africa it seems appropriate... I am more talking about the US) will already have first hand knowledge, and I feel that, while an important topic, HIV knowledge and tolerance is a grade-school (not pre-school) topic.
  15. Jackie

    Jackie New Member

    Maybe the episode is more for parents...I mean children emulate their parents and if they see them treating someone differently, they will do the same. Sesame Street is meant for Parents and Children to watch together. So if a Parent sees that a person with HIV can live normally in a community they will pass those values on to their kids.

    But i don't know :)
  16. frogboy4

    frogboy4 Inactive Member

    Say What?

    Showing a character only in a hospital setting would be grossly misleading. AIDS is a terrible disease but not everybody who is HIV positive spends their entire life hooked up to a machine in a hospital and showing only that part of it wouldn't be accurate. I'm thinking that maybe this program should be in primetime now. Geez, this disease has been around for some time now and it appears that adults are still rather uninformed.:eek:
  17. radionate

    radionate New Member

    I really don't know what or how I feel about this. I'm honestly in shock and disbelief after reading the article. Our world is changing every so drastically everyday. While I'm not that old, when I look at my nephews and other young children today, I am amazed at not only their maturity for their ages, but also what they are aware of that I never thought of till I was much older. But to not realize this, is the same as burying your head in the sand, or pretending its not happening.

    I'm sure S.S. will handle this matter with the greatest dignity and respect, and on a personal level I couldn't be more amazed and awestruck at the possibility of tackling such a subject. Children, like their parents, are grossly uninformed about this disease.
    Heck, I remember as a kid and even a teenager being afraid that I could contact HIV through sneezes or touches. I'm sure those urban legends haven't changed.

    If we are to ever have a generation who has a full understanding of this disease, we need to start with the young. To educate them, and promote awareness. This is the perfect catalyst for that.

    I just hope and pray for the day when education about HIV/AIDS will no longer be necessary, as it will only be a subject in history classes. And no one, in any country, gay or straight, male or female, young or old will have to suffer. That is my prayer.
  18. radionate

    radionate New Member

    Its called the "off button" Luke.

    Televisions are not babysitters, but unfortunatly in today's society they are treated as such. I would welcome any parent to sue me over content on a children's television show. 'Cause if I were to tackle subject material as sensitive and important as this, I would air a disclaimer before the show (and indeed many days before the show), to draw attention to the parent of the subject matter. They wouldn't have a leg to stand on legally. But then again, those children who are plopped down in front of the TV and are left alone are just the ones who need education about things such as HIV/AIDS, as more often then not their parents haven't got a clue about it, nor anything else.
  19. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    AIDS, HIV, and all disease is a fact of life. Think about it this way, on Sesame Street, we have characters like Linda, a hearing impaired woman, Emily, a girl confined to a wheel chair, and Hooper, who died. Face it, Sesame Street has to be depressing sometimes. Life isn't all funshine, wowwypops and rainy-bows, you know. Besides, HIV is very serious, especially in South Africa. This has come up a lot in the news lately (mainly about drug costs), so it would seem to be very important to have on this show.

    And frankly if we have a character like that over here, it would be in poor taste to name him "Richard!"
  20. FellowWLover

    FellowWLover Member

    I clearly stated that I did not think that making the show about HIV was necessary, and that it would be *more* useful to show a hospital setting *rather* than an HIV Muppet since most kids in the US are likely to have a hospital experience, but may or may not deal with HIV by age 5. Naturally I know that HIV does not equal hospital.

    For the record, I have known several people living with HIV, as well as having been to a few funerals for the same. Still, I maintain that the under five set need not be concerned with delving into the world of HIV at such a tender age. It has nothing to do with being uninformed. As a parent, I feel that some topics should be addressed very early, and that others can wait a few years. The introducation of an HIV character would not keep me from showing SS to my child, however, and I understand why kids in Africa have a compelling need for the proposed character.

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