- The Washington Times - Monday, July 22, 2002

The Washington Times reports that the South African version of “Sesame Street” will introduce a cuddly, HIV-positive Muppet that children can “touch and interact with” (“No HIV Muppet for Sesame Street,'” July 17). Unfortunately, the article raises more questions than it presumes to answer.

Some 4.7 million South Africans one in nine are HIV positive. More than 10 million black African children have lost one or both parents to AIDS. Their tragic plight merits the compassion of all Americans.

The introduction, however, of an HIV-positive female Muppet on South African television may obscure the fundamental cause of AIDS rampant promiscuity and the most effective way to combat it. The children who watch “Sesame Street” will not be told why or how people get AIDS, much less how the dreaded infection can be avoided.

Further, South African President Thabo Mbeki has said that it is “demeaning” and “insulting” to Africans even to suggest that sexual promiscuity spreads the HIV virus. In its lengthy story on the recent International AIDS Conference in Barcelona, Spain, The Washington Post did not even mention the word promiscuity.

The United States should be commended for providing medication to AIDS victims worldwide, but as long as the media and politicians fail to acknowledge the basic cause of AIDS and shirk calling for a change in sexual behavior, the epidemic will not go away, Muppet or no Muppet.


ERNEST W. LEFEVER

Senior Fellow

Ethics and Public Policy Center

Washington


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