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Wednesday, 17 July, 2002, 17:26 GMT 18:26 UK
HIV Muppet 'not for US'
Sesame Street
The HIV muppet is intended for South African audiences
American's PBS TV network has confirmed it has no plans to introduce an HIV-positive Muppet to its new episodes of Sesame Street.

Republican politicians in the US Congress were outraged over the possible introduction of the character, who will appear in the South African version of the show.

However Pat Mitchell, president of the PBS network, has said that the character is intended for South African audiences only.

Let kids be kids...they are going to grow up fast enough

Ken Johnson, aide to WJ Tauzin

In a letter to Republican politician WJ Tauzin, Mitchell said the new Muppet has been developed by production house Sesame Workship in conjunction with South African educators and the US Agency for International Development, and is not intended for the American market.

Tauzin aide Ken Johnson said the politician was satisfied with the response.

"We had a real simple argument - let kids be kids," he said.

"They are going to grow up fast enough. They are going to learn about Aids, world famine and terrorism soon enough. Why can't they laugh and play for a while?"
Elmo
Elmo remains one of the show's favourites

The female, HIV-infected Muppet, who will debut on the show on September 30, aims to reduce prejudice against people with the HIV virus or Aids.

One in nine people in South Africa are estimated to have the virus.

The character will be a "lively, friendly and active participant" in all aspects of the show.

"There was an overwhelming local desire and passion to bring this issue to the programme," said a spokesman for Sesame Workshop.

See also:

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