Hallmarks 'Sesame Street' introduces HIV- Positive muppet to spread AIDS awareness

MUMBAI: Hallmark has announced that its kids show Sesame Street will introduce a HIVpositive Muppet. The as yet unnamed character will appear next month on Takalani Sesame which is the version of the kids' show that airs in AIDS-ravaged South Africa. The newest Sesame Street Muppet will be brought to viewers by the letters H, I and V.

An official release informs that in South Africa an estimated one in nine people are infected with HIV. Sesame Street producer Joel Schneider announced the introduction of the HIV-positive Muppet, who does not yet have a name or a final design at this week's 14th lnternational AIDS Conference in Barcelona, Spain.

He said, "There is no systemic education for children about the HIV virus and AIDS. They often receive a lot of misinformation. We know in South Africa, as well as in other places, the virus is a huge issue." Some of those countries (among the 70 in which Sesame airs) where the new Muppet might also appear may include Russia and Mexico. It has not been clarified as to whether the character would also join Bert and Ernie in the American Sesame Street. The story about how the character contracted HIV is still under discussion, but it's likely to involve a story line about a blood transfusion or transmission through childbirth.

Talking about the character of the muppet Schneider said: "We know that she'll be lively, alert, friendly, outgoing and HIV positive. She'll be healthy, not sickly. The aim is to help 'destigmatise' the virus among viewers of the programme, We want to show children that it's okay to touch an HIV-positive person, okay to hug, that a person can still be a constructive part of the community."

Sesame Street airs weekdays at 7 am and in the evening at 4 pm on the Hallmark Channel Kids Block.

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