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U.N. promotes HIV-positive Muppet

World Net Daily

An HIV-positive Muppet starring in the South African version of "Sesame Street" has received an official appointment from the United Nations as a "global champion for children."

The U.N. Children's Fund, or UNICEF, says the furry puppet "has brought levity and compassion to a topic that so often evokes the opposite," according to the Associated Press.

Kami, representing a 5-year-old orphan girl on the TV program "Takalani Sesame," will help advance UNICEF's aim of ending the stigma for HIV/AIDS sufferers.

The Muppet will appear in public service ads and serve as a representative for other projects by UNICEF in conjunction with Sesame Workshop, the U.S.-based, nonprofit group that produces the popular PBS show "Sesame Street."

"The appeal of the partnership is that through characters like Kami we can highlight areas where children are particularly vulnerable - from illiteracy to disability and abuse - in ways that are gentle, honest and compassionate," UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said, according to the AP.

Kami actually is expanding a role originated by the South African government, which sponsored the show to reduce stigma about the disease. About one in nine South Africans, some 4.7 million, are HIV positive.

The Muppet will be featured tomorrow at the presentation of a new UNICEF report on the impact of HIV/AIDS on Africa's children. About 800,000 children under 15 years old became HIV-positive in 2002, UNICEF said, with the vast majority infected at birth.

As WorldNetDaily reported, the European Union is helping fund another foreign version of "Sesame Street" as a way to promote Middle East peace.

"Sesame Stories," produced separately in Israel and the Palestinian territories, seeks to teach the next generation of Israelis and Palestinians to love, accept and have empathy for their neighbors.

Another attempt at "Sesame Stories" began about six years ago as an Israeli-Palestinian joint effort that sought to build on the momentum of the 1993 Oslo accords. But the unraveling of the Oslo process led to the show's current concept of seeking to humanize historic enemies through separate but parallel stories.

The EU decided to fund episodes of the series "in the belief that ignorance of others fuels the ongoing conflict in the region."

The series likely will have competition, however.

Palestinian Authority television, for example, produced a "Sesame Street"-like children's program called the "Children's Club" - complete with puppet shows, songs, Mickey Mouse and other characters - focused on inculcating intense hatred of Jews and a passion for engaging in and celebrating violence against them in a perpetual "jihad" until the day the Israeli flags come down from above "Palestinian land" and the Palestinian flag is raised.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan was a guest-star on the U.S. production "Sesame Street" two years ago, stepping in when puppet character Elmo and his friends argued over who would get to sing the alphabet song.

Annan said after the taping he hoped he showed children "the spirit of the U.N., a spirit of understanding, sharing and working together."

He said some politicians needed to be more like the characters in the show.

"Elmo and his friends will tell us, it's the way they are, they tell it straight," Annan said. "Keep it simple and it brings you back to earth. I think that is very important, we all need that."
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