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South Africa's Sesame Street Gets HIV+ Muppet

Discussion in 'Sesame Worlds' started by Phillip, Sep 17, 2002.

  1. Phillip

    Phillip Administrator Staff Member

    South Africa's Sesame Street Gets HIV+ Muppet
    Courtesy of Yahoo News

    South Africa's Sesame Street community welcomed a fluffy five-year-old orphan living with HIV on Tuesday in the government's latest effort to stem the AIDS pandemic ravaging the country and the continent.

    Education Minister Kader Asmal was the first outsider to hug Kami, a lively bear-like Muppet with a passion for nature, after her public debut at Cape Town's Groote Schuur Hospital, the only one in the country offering drug therapy for children with AIDS.

    Guests saw a snippet of the first show in which Kami is invited to join the familiar Sesame Street characters at play.

    "You're beautiful," says Zikwe, the big, blue, gravely voiced kingpin of the show.

    Asmal said the character, rejected last year as a member of the original U.S. Sesame Street community, would join the local Takalani Sesame from September 30 to help children infected with or affected by HIV/AIDS to understand the disease.

    Takalani means "be happy" in the local Venda language and Kami's name is derived from the Tswana word for "acceptance."

    Sesame Street is a pre-school television show based on the popular Muppets series and designed to help children prepare for school.

    "Education is the only socially acceptable vaccine available to our people and represents our only hope to save our nation," Asmal said in an address to funders and partners in the project.

    "We can't continue to have HIV positive children isolated, demonized, victimized. We want to make all of our children feel comfortable," he said.

    The United Nations estimates 2.3 million people died of AIDS-related illnesses in Africa last year, leaving hundreds of thousands of children orphaned.

    It estimates 28.1 million of the 40 million people living with HIV/AIDS are in Africa and 4.8 million are in South Africa, where one in nine people are infected.

    Local AIDS activists say South African President Thabo Mbeki has undermined the campaign against the disease by questioning the link between HIV and AIDS.

    The state unsuccessfully fought demands for drugs to limit mother-to-child transmission to the country's highest court.

    Drugs to control the disease are freely available to those with medical insurance, but there is no state-funded anti-retroviral program for adults or children living with HIV-AIDS.

    The state-owned Groote Schuur hospital runs a foreign-funded pilot program treating children with AIDS.

    Yvonne Kgame, general manager for education at the state-owned South African Broadcasting Corp, said HIV/AIDS would become part of the environment of the television show, but not its focus.

    Kami would explain that she was born with HIV and that she has no parents, but lives with a loving foster mother, Kgame said.

  2. Phillip

    Phillip Administrator Staff Member

    Just added a photo of the character to the above story...


    What do you think? Do you like her? Now that we know more about how she has been developed and will be portrayed as an orphan on the show, what do you think of the direction the South African Sesame producers have taken with this character?
  3. beaker

    beaker Well-Known Member

    I think we can all agree its tragic that a level of youth infected HIV cases has risen to a level so dramatic that it is imperative to reflect that on kid's programming.

    There are a lot of really tragic facets of various parts of African continent life for people under 18. While AIDS has significantly ravaged areas, famine and war are the other two main problems.

    Though I don't think Sesame Africa will be depicting knife wielding 8 year old guerrilla fighters from the Congo or a skeleton framed starving child, the reality is these two things are right up there with the AIDS problem.

    I read on here that the character had its American debut of sorts on the NBC Today show recently. There will of course be an anticipated 'This isnt coming to our shores!' decree, but I suspect this as it has been stated, will remain a specified local component of Sesame International. The idea is to show compassion and tolerance, and I think Sesame Workshop Intl. is in a perfect position to deliver that, as they have in the past.
  4. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    I just hope no one starts any of that anti- alternative lifestyle crap like what happened last time.
  5. TravellingMatt

    TravellingMatt Well-Known Member

    I must say that it's ABOUT TIME that the Henson folks finally made a mention of the AIDS issue, even though their one HIV-positive Muppet is not in North America. Many people (especially in articles on MC) have wanted this to come about for some time, especially after Richard Hunt's death. (The only time HIV/AIDS has been mentioned by a Muppet prior to this was a short Baby Sinclair walk-on somewhere.)

    AIDS isn't going to go away any time soon (I know, I've been to a couple of anti-AIDS fundraisers in the past few years, mainly for BC/EFA), so the issue should be addressed. After all, "Sesame Street" has dealt with other traumatic issues such as death (Mr. Hooper), hurricanes, and 9/11...so why not AIDS?

    I feel that Kami is a positive step in the right direction for all parties involved.
  6. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    I hereby appologize for that last outburst! As we all know, we got into a heated debate this summer, with disasterous results. Besides, we also know that I've been feling under the weather lately!

    Aside from that, if (and I mean IF!!!) they decide to talk about AIDS over here (on our Sesame) I doubt we should use a Muppet.

    We could use Mr. Noodle actor Michael Jeeter (Beeker knows what I mean) who has HIV. Or, we could use Magic Johnson, who has been diagnosed (sp) with HIV, and has lead a productive life despite that....even though he did retire a few times and made that dreadful talk show....

    I mean, such guests would lead to discussions with parents. Christopher Reeve has been on the show, and I'm sure it lead to, "Mommy? Why is that man in a wheel chair?"

    One must talk to there kids, no doubt!
  7. Don'tLiveonMoon

    Don'tLiveonMoon Well-Known Member

    I saw something on the news about this on Friday. I think it's a good idea, especially for that audience since it is so affected by HIV. It's tragic that there are so many difficult issues that children must face today, and if Sesame Street can help them to be more understanding then more power to it.
  8. beaker

    beaker Well-Known Member

    >>>We could use Mr. Noodle actor Michael Jeeter (Beeker knows what I mean) who has HIV.<<<

    Thanx, but noone listens to me;) Hehe, but yes, they already have an example of someone on the street living with the disease and achieving. Why use a Muppet in the states? PErhaps for S. Africa that is the best decision, but I feel any address of the issue should be used with a human here. Not to mention the fallout...people will say, 'um, how does a Muppet get AIDS?' the fact is they dont. And its easier to connect wiht a human story than anything else regardless of age.

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