Nigerian Sesame Street will feature HIV-positive muppet

Sesame Square, the Nigerian version of Sesame Street, will feature Kami, a girl-muppet who is HIV-positive. The show was produced with a $3.3 million grant from U.S., Agency for International Development and Obama's Emergency Plan for AIDS relief.

Apparently, the South African version of the show already has a HIV+ character, as Mark reported in 2002.

"If we're writing scripts for programs in Nigeria, the writers will be Nigerian scriptwriters," explains Farouky. "We'll often look for people who already have some experience in writing, but because we're aware [of] the format that we use and the methodology that we use, we'll provide training on how to write."

According to Farouky, collaboration is at the heart of the production process. "We work with our local teams to find ways in which we take the content that's important to them, to infuse the project with the cultural values, making sure we know which the taboo issues are and which are not," she told CNN...

"Our program is hosted by two muppets, a boy and a girl," she told CNN. "And because there is an entire region in Nigeria up in the North which is very Muslim, we had to be very sensitive. Even our publicity pictures could not have the muppets hugging, which we would normally have," she explained.

Although the first adaptation to reach West Africa, "Sesame Square" will be the latest in a long line of region-specific shows around the world, which include "Sisimpur" in Bangladesh, "Ulitsa Sezam" in Russia, and "Takalani Sesame" in South Africa.

HIV-positive muppet to star in Nigeria's 'Sesame Street' (via Super Punch)


    1. I still recall the Great Tinky-Winky Controversy which was about the kind of bag a plush puppet could carry around and keep the Bible Belt happy.

      I’m more interested in why they chose a square instead of a street. Are streets in Nigeria not places of social interaction?

      1. Good point.
        There could be various reasons for the renaming. Perhaps its the other way around and squares specifically are places of social interaction there? Or perhaps the words don’t sound too good next to each other, or, again on the other hand, maybe square makes for a nice rhyme, alliteration or a pun.
        Anyone from Nigeria who can shine some light on this?

      2. For what it’s worth, the same name change occurs here in Argentina (and I assume, also in other Latin American countries).
        Sesame Street is “Plaza Sésamo” i.e. Sesame Square.

        In our case, squares and parks are the places where kids go to play and interact, while streets have the connotation of “dangerous place with fast cars”. Unless you live in a quiet neighborhood with little car traffic, or in a semi-rural area with dirt roads, you can’t play soccer on the street anymore.
        Maybe the same applies here…

  1. Really? In India you can be arrested for hugging in a public place and there are very strict rules on displaying affection. A couple was arrested for kissing publicly.

    Puppets are humanoid and entertainment, so people don’t want said puppets acting in a way which is generally regarded as unacceptable. While heavy making out is generally not seen as a bad thing in the states, we still don’t want the puppets on Sesame Street making out for our kids to see.

  2. I cannot imagine how I would explain to a child how an imaginary character that isn’t human happens to have aids.

    Of course, That might be the last priority in a place where so much about aids sadly need to be described to kids.

  3. OK. Somebody is going to go here. Might as well be me.

    Do they also plan to have a puppet who needs help moving millions of dollars from his homeland?

  4. That’s great, I’m all for HIV/AIDS awareness and all, but… How exactly would it come up? Is this muppet going to accidentally cut herself or something? I don’t imagine many HIV+ people go around talking about it (or in the case of Sesame Street, singing a song about it?).

    1. Well, if it’s about “a boy and a girl” then this girl got it from her mother of course. Just like every HIV-positive child. In African countries it’s not so much a problem of ‘catching’ it but more about being born with it. It’s reality for many children and this child muppet will maybe help them deal with it.

      But: Two fictional child characters not being allowed to hug because they are of the opposite gender and it would be considered inappropriate PDA by the Muslim community is just, um, perverted. I don’t even know what to say. These characters are supposed to be children! It’s not two adult unmarried characters hugging in public, but children!

  5. It’s gross, I mean how long is the character going to be in the show? Will they just disappear or are the kids going to see horrible a horrible death scene? Is it going to show the actual fear and suffering involved? So “normalising” aids like this is ok? I don’t like it, I think it’s obscene. Practical help is one thing but this is terrible.

    1. I don’t think it is about normalizing AIDS. In Africa, AIDS is a real concern. As is AIDS denialism. Raising awareness, and countering special interest groups / retarded homeopaths is an important cause.

      Far from obscene.

    2. Sapa,

      Do you have any idea what the life expectancy is now for people with HIV?

      Also, congratulations on time-traveling from the 1980s. When you go back, say hi to Ronnie and Nancy for all of us.

    3. There’s a real problem in Africa of AIDS sufferers being treated horrendously, so yes, it does need to be normalised. There are instances of the extended family of someone who’s been diagnosed descending on their house and taking everything of value. Kids need a sensible idea of the risks so they don’t perpetuate this behavious.

  6. Please excuse bad grammar but I’m really cross at this, what a waste of money that could have been used better

  7. Ref: “HIV Morphology and Occurrence in Muppets.”

    Turns out that metaphorical AIDS is a problem as well.

  8. Sapa – Pediatric AIDS is a daily reality for these children; the show is providing them with real information (appropriate to their age) regarding the disease and how to deal with the feelings and social circumstances around it.

  9. Clearly the people who think this is “gross” or “a waste of money” are completely clueless to how big an issue AIDS is in Africa. Millions of children are orphaned by AIDS and AIDS is a normal part of their daily lives. I think it is fantastic that Sesame Street is addressing a real issue for children.

  10. See? This is what happens when you share used sewing needles. Always, always STERILIZE YOUR INSTRUMENTS!!!


  11. When the South African HIV+ muppet was introduced, the US Congress passed laws saying that the Children’s Televisions Workshop would lose all of it’s funding if they ever had a HIV+ character in the US. I wonder if they will go hysterical again this time.

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