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Editorial: Big Bird has a new neighbor

The ground-breaking children’s show Sesame Street announced Thursday it will introduce an HIV-positive character on its South African counterpart, Takalani Sesame. The PBS stalwart should be commended for taking such a bold step in the face of such a deadly disease.

The show, which has aired in America for over 30 years and has eight versions in other countries including South Africa, made the announcement at the 14th International AIDS Conference held in Barcelona. The muppet has yet to take shape, color or form, but will be a female, and there are discussions that the character will make appearances on all versions of Sesame Street.

Sesame Street has been accredited with teaching the alphabet, numbers, manners and cultural diversity. The introduction of an HIV-positive character is the perfect next step for this educational show that has enriched the lives of millions of children and woven itself into the pop culture fabric of the world.

AIDS in South Africa is a serious and deadly problem that has been on the rise over the past decades instead of the decline. According to a article, in some part of South Africa, 40 percent of women who are of child-bearing age are HIV-positive, and 40 percent of adult deaths are the result of AIDS. With such large numbers, the need for prevention and education among South African youth is even more necessary.

Through a friendly and functional character, Sesame Street will be able to break through the taboos of discussing AIDS to convey to children the seriousness of the disease, as well as ways to prevent it.

Sesame Street has given the world Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch and Cookie Monster. It seems only fitting that it adds a character who will teach children about how to deal with a fact of life that has affected thousands of people around the world. Sesame Street’s innovative use of this character will give educational and informative children’s programming a much-needed shot in the arm.