‘Sesame’ opens door to HIV Muppet

Character not yet named, looks to bow in Septemeber

WASHINGTON — Hoping to educate children in South Africa about the realities of the HIV virus, “Sesame Street” will soon bow a new Muppet infected with the disease.

The HIV-positive Muppet doesn’t have a name yet, or a final design, but it is expected to hit the airwaves in September, Sesame Street Workshop veep Joel Schneider said in a phone interview from Barcelona.

Schneider announced the latest “Sesame Street” addition earlier this week at the 14th Intl. AIDS Conference, being held in the Spanish metropolis.

The HIV virus is raging at epidemic proportions in South Africa, where it’s estimated that one in nine people are infected.

In South Africa, the Muppet will appear on “Takalani Sesame.”

Joint effort

Schneider said development of the puppet was a joint effort of “Sesame Street,” South African Broadcasting, South Africa’s Dept. of Education and the U.S. Agency for Intl. Development, among others.

“Part of the point here is that there is no systemic education for children about the HIV virus and AIDS. They often receive a lot of misinformation,” Schneider said.

“We know in South Africa, as well as in other places, the virus is a huge issue,” he said.

Eventually, the Muppet could join the “Sesame Street” brood in other countries, such as Russia or Mexico, Schneider said. Whether the HIV-infected Muppet will eventually make its way to the U.S. is unclear.

“Sesame Street” airs in 70 countries, often working in concert with local production companies.

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