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Tuesday, 17 September, 2002, 15:09 GMT 16:09 UK
HIV puppet on Sesame Street
News Sesame character Kami
The new character, Kami, is HIV positive

The South African version of the children's educational programme Sesame Street has introduced an HIV positive character.

The programme, aimed at very young children, wants to show that those living with HIV are no different to others and should be treated as such.

Aids protestors
The fight against Aids is a controversial issue

About one in nine South Africans have the virus, with thousands of children having become orphans because of the Aids epidemic.

The provision of drugs to treat the disease has become a controversial political issue, with Aids campaigners taking legal action to force the government to provide anti-retroviral drugs.

Living with HIV

The name of the latest addition to Takalani Sesame is Kami. She is five, she likes playing, reading and telling stories.

The character has been introduced to the programme with the HIV infection rate on the increase.

The idea is to teach children that people can live normal lives with HIV.

SA babies at risk
Drugs could stop HIV transmission to babies

Gloria Britain, the project manager for the new character, says: "There are so many young children in South Africa who face the issues of being affected and infected by HIV/Aids on a daily basis and the last thing we want to do as responsible adults and responsible organisations in South Africa is to bury our heads in the sand.

"We've got to help children to understand the real world that they live in on a daily basis."

Sesame Street has different educational storylines around the world, to reflect issues affecting children in specific countries.

By getting young children used to the idea of having an HIV positive friend around it is hoped the stigma associated with the virus in South Africa can be removed.

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The BBC's Robert Nisbet reports
"Rarely has a puppet atrracted so much attention"

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