Tag Archives: tv

How Sesame Street tackles social issues like autism, HIV, disability and other conditions

Sesame Street has introduced its latest muppet – a little girl called Julia, who has autism.

The character’s already featured in digital and printed storybooks, but will debut on TV next month.

Her introduction will attempt to explain the complex topic of autism to a young audience.

But this isn’t the first time Sesame Street has been a trailblazer in introducing socially progressive characters to children.

Look back at some of the other characters who’ve attempted to explain difficult issues to children.

Kami, the HIV-positive character

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Kami was introduced to the South African version of Sesame Street in 2002.

She was brought in to try to reduce the stigma around people with HIV/Aids in a country with one of the highest infection rates in the world.

Her name comes from the word kamogelo, which means acceptance in the Zulu, Sesotho and Setswana languages.

The designer of the muppet Ed Christie said in 2004 that Kami was deliberately designed not to be a “humanoid” character, as the makers felt that she would be easier to accept.

Mahboub, the Arab-Israeli muppet

In 2006, Sesame Street introduced a character to try to reduce prejudice between Israelis and Palestinians.

Mahboub, a five-year-old Arab character, speaks Hebrew and Arabic, and appeared in both Israeli and Palestinian versions of the show – as well as in Shalom Sesame, the Jewish-American version.

In a part of the world where tension between the two territories has been high for decades, his introduction prompted some unhappy reactions.

Yuli Tamir, Israel’s minister of education at the time, said the character had the aim of “teaching children how to live together, how to work together with each other despite their differences”.

Aristotle the blind monster

Also known as Ari, this muppet appeared in the 1980s to teach children how blind people live in the wider world.

In one scene, he shows Big Bird how he uses Braille by reading Little Red Riding Hood.

Most Sesame Street characters don’t have visible ears – but Aristotle was a rare exception, to help explain how he uses other senses instead of sight.

Katie the wheelchair user

Big Bird and bullying

A 2011 episode taught children how to recognise and tackle bullying at school.

The story revolves around Big Bird, who, because of his size and colour, isn’t allowed in the “good birds’ club” by its leader Pigeon.

Big Bird even appeared on CNN around the time of the episode as part of a wider anti-bullying campaign.

This wasn’t the first time Sesame Street took on this subject. In 2003, they performed a blues song Don’t be a Bully.

Lily, the muppet highlighting childhood hunger

‘Gay’ characters Bert and Ernie (unofficially)

For decades, audiences have believed that best friends Bert and Ernie are actually lovers – an especially progressive move for a show which started in 1969.

The two do have a very close relationship, and sleep in the same room – and their images have been used in gay rights’ protests for years, for example on the cover of the New Yorker after same-sex marriage was legalised in the US in 2013.

Bert and Ernie’s response to the court ruling allowing Gay Marriage:

In 2014, a Christian-run bakery in Northern Ireland refused a customer’s request to make a cake with the faces of Bert and Ernie with a pro-gay rights message.

But Sesame Street has always denied that the two are gay, including in a Facebook statement in 2011, where they said that the two muppets “were created to teach preschoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very different from themselves”.

Or, as Sesame Street Workshop boss Gary Knell put it in 1994, “they are not gay, they are not straight, they are puppets. They don’t exist below the waist”.

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World Health Organisation Advocates for HIV Self-Testing


The first legally approved HIV self testing kits only became available in the UK last year.

Forty percent of the people with HIV globally are unaware they are infected, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said in a statement yesterday (Tues 29th Nov) , two days ahead of World AIDS Day.

The WHO is advocating for broader access to self-testing kits to make it easier for those at risk to determine whether they are infected.

“HIV self-testing should open the door for many more people to know their HIV status and find out how to get treatment and access prevention services,” said WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan.

The report cited studies which found that providing self-testing kits nearly doubles the chances of men who have sex with men getting tested.

Late Diagnosis in Leicester

Late HIV diagnosis in Leicester is 13.8% higher than the average for England.  HIV testing is a scary prospect to some and no one takes that for granted, but by taking the chance to be tested, you could be buying yourself years of life.

Do you know your HIV status? – The only way to know if you have HIV or not is to get a HIV test.  You can do this for free at your doctor, free at an NHS clinic, free with charities like LASS and now you can even do a HIV test at home, at your convenience.

For more information on HIV Testing, please visit our website where you can find information about testing with us or other places in Leicester/shire and around the UK.

You can also apply for a FREE home sampling HIV kit or you can purchase your own self test kit.  An explanation on the differences between testing methods is available in our HIV Testing Pages.

Self-testing would be particularly beneficial to populations that face a wide variety of barriers to testing centers; however, many of the financial constraints which prevent access to testing and treatment may similarly impede access to self-testing kits.

Still, the WHO noted significant improvements in HIV awareness and treatment in the past decade. In 2005, just 12 percent of those infected with HIV knew they had the AIDS virus. Last year, the number climbed to 60 percent. Additionally, 80 percent of those who know they are HIV-positive are currently receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART).

Wide-scale implementation of self-testing remains limited, but 23 countries currently have policies in place supporting it, and many other nations are developing similar policies.

You can read the full statement by the World Health Organisation here: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2016/world-aids-day/en/

Want to know how a HIV test works? – See this video featuring Dr Christian on loose women .

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Russian TV presenter hopes revealing his HIV status will promote tolerance


Russia is struggling with an HIV epidemic, but you could be excused for thinking that the problem did not exist at all. Sex education and HIV and Aids prevention are not topics for schools, and public service advertising and media coverage is rare. Even many healthcare professionals prefer to avoid the topic.

But while Charlie Sheen-style HIV revelations by celebrities are also unheard of in the country, this week a television presenter, Pavel Lobkov, declared that he was HIV-positive during a live broadcast on TV.

Story via

Lobkov and activists said they hoped that his statement, broadcast by the small independent channel TV Rain, would jump-start public discussion about the issue, as the number of new HIV cases sky-rocketed.

“It’s not the done thing to talk for real [about HIV], and in Russia it’s a real problem,” Lobkov said. “Maybe after this shock there will be a discussion about what these medicines are, and are there enough doctors specialising in this, is their knowledge adequate to treat HIV infections?”

Lobkov said during the broadcast that he had discovered he had HIV in 2003 while working for the NTV channel. Immediately after he was diagnosed his doctor refused to treat him, telling him he was being excluded from the NTV insurance programme.

Since then Lobkov had had trouble finding treatment for mundane conditions. He said it took him about a year to find a dentist willing to perform an implant procedure after several told him his HIV status would cause complications, despite research showing such concerns to be baseless.

According to Lena Groznova, an activist at the HIV-prevention group Andrey Rylkov Foundation, such ignorance about HIV is common even among healthcare workers, due to the lack of public service information. She said public perception of HIV was outdated and associated the condition with a “quick death”. Widespread disapproval of gay relationships and drug use also played a role.

“Few people from the general population know that a therapy exists that allows people to support their [HIV] status. Even among specialists we run into, police, doctors, have a stigma and fear of HIV people that doesn’t match the threat, which is none,” Groznova said.

Lobkov said several doctors had contacted him in recent days to tell him about HIV-positive patients who did not seek treatment or register for state-provided medicine for fear that their infected status would have a bad impact on their professional and personal lives.

Russia is one of the few countries where the number of HIV cases is rapidly growing. According to the federal Aids centre, at least 986,657 Russians were officially registered as HIV-positive as of 1 November, and the number of new cases had risen by 12% this year.

A consumer oversight agency official in St Petersburg said last month that Russia faced an HIV epidemic. But while the government has increased spending to treat Aids, state policy on fighting HIV has focused on abstinence from sex and drugs, rather than harm reduction programmes.

A message from the Ryazan city government for World Aids Day on Tuesday declared that “even one single sexual contact, even one dose of drugs, can cause HIV infection”.

The state-run Russian Strategic Research Institute said in a report, in October, that rather than adopting western methods, Russia needed to develop an HIV and Aids prevention programme to “reflect real national interests”.

Opioid substitution treatment with substances such as methadone, which aims to help users gradually lose their addiction and is frequently used in the west, is illegal. The Andrey Rylkov Foundation is one of the few groups that hands out clean needles and condoms to at-risk groups such as drug users.

Although the Moscow city Aids prevention centre recently began an advertising campaign around the slogan “Friendship doesn’t transmit HIV”, it was not enough, Groznova said.

Lobkov said: “The government can fight social phobias, it should have information campaigns on tolerance, acceptance. If there will be tolerance, people will go do [HIV] tests, then they will go [to] therapy, and the epidemic will start to die.”

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Free Training: HIV in the Spotlight: TV and Film


  • When: Wednesday 14th October 2015: 5:30-8pm

  • Where: The Michael Wood Centre (LE1 6YF MAP)

  • Light refreshments will be available from 5-6pm

HIV is portrayed in many different ways in the news, TV soaps, documentaries and on film.  We will look at the different portrayals and discuss the different information, perspectives, and messages they provide to the viewing audience.

Since HIV first emerged, it’s never really been out of the news.  It is still one of the most pressing health challenges we face in our world.  In the early days, little was known about the virus. There was a great deal of fear about how it was spread and many people died from HIV-related illnesses.  That’s a legacy which AIDS has left behind and in part, fuels ignorance, stigma and prejudice today.

Today, treatment has revolutionised what it means to live with HIV.  Having HIV is no longer a death sentence and if someone is diagnosed early and is treated, they will not go on to develop AIDS.  Instead, they can live a long life, work, exercise, even have children if they choose.

Despite rapid advances in treatment, social attitudes are changing much more slowly. Evidence shows public knowledge of HIV in the UK is declining and there is a worrying lack of understanding about HIV.

The media play an important role in communicating to the public what exactly it means to live with HIV today.  Understanding the advances in knowledge and treatment around HIV is vital to portraying and reporting accurately about HIV.  An accurate view will provide benefits in public health, dispells myths, undermines prejudice, increase understanding and make for a better story line if adopted correctly.  The media should contribute realistically in the way that HIV is addressed around the world.

We know that an accurate depiction of HIV has always been – and still is – a challenge. HIV and its ramifications are complex to portray withinh scrips, fiction and the news.  This session will be of benefit to anyone who is interested in film, HIV or an interesting social discussion.

CALL US: 0116 2559995 or email: training@lass.org.uk to reserve your space!

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Emmerdale spoilers: Val Pollard to have health crisis(!)

Val Pollard

Val Pollard (Charlie Hardwick) is to be at the centre of a February plotline on Emmerdale that will focus on her HIV diagnosis.

Last year, the character of Val discovered that she had contracted HIV in the wake of holiday fling. Now, the ITV soap is to re-examine the story strand with a fresh “health crisis” for the B&B owner.

“It’s a status that Val will live with for the rest of her life and it’s not necessarily an easy road, so we just wanted to go back to the story and explore a different side of it,” said series producer Kate Oates.

After commenting on This Morning that she was “so proud” of the way that actress Charlie Hardwick had tackled the “really tough storyline”, Oates added:

“Val may have a bit of a health crisis and that might do something to the way she views her own health and status. Maybe it will be a bump in the road for her, which Eric’s going to have to handle. And Finn as well, who’s her new surrogate boy.”

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Hollyoaks’ Kieron Richardson: ‘HIV story is two people’s journeys’

1418643757_ste-hay-7Hollyoaks star Kieron Richardson spoke further about his upcoming HIV storyline in a live TV interview on This Morning on Friday, (January 16).

The actor’s alter ego Ste Hay will be diagnosed as HIV positive in scenes airing next week. It is the first time that a British soap has featured a gay character living with HIV.

Ste contracted the condition last year when he had unprotected sex with a student named Connor. As well as promoting safe sex, Ste’s story will explore the effect that his HIV status has on his marriage to John Paul McQueen, his children and his physical and psychological wellbeing.

Speaking on ITV’s morning show today, Richardson explained: “I’ve been there [at Hollyoaks] for nine years so you think sometimes, ‘Am I a bit washed up now?’, but each year it just keeps getting bigger and bigger for the character and it’s challenging for me coming into work and doing the storylines.”

Asked why this story is particularly important to him, he replied: “I think it’s the fact that it hasn’t been done with a gay character before, which shocks me a little bit.

“I’ve got lots of friends that have got HIV as well, so it’s nice now that the show is giving a voice to the LGBT community – because it does happen and it is on the rise within our community, so why not tell the story?”

When Connor gets back in contact with Ste next week and suggests that he should get tested, Ste is forced to break the news to John Paul (James Sutton) before they both visit a clinic together.

Richardson continued: “Ste doesn’t really want to go. His first initial thought is, ‘I’d rather not know, I just want to carry on as normal’. Obviously he’s in a relationship and he can’t do that, so it’s whether or not he’s going to decide to go to the clinic – and the outcome is that Ste’s positive.

“It’s great because this is two people’s journeys. It’s not just Ste’s, it’s John Paul’s as well – how he deals with his husband having HIV. It’s great and then in a couple of weeks’ time, the whole village have to find out and it’s everyone’s reactions.”

In real life, Richardson is planning to marry his long-term partner Carl Hyland this year.

Speaking about the upcoming ceremony, he laughed: “The wedding’s getting bigger and bigger. My favourite thing when I go to a wedding is I want to see what the bride’s wearing and the dress. Unfortunately when you come to my wedding, that’s not going to happen because we’re not wearing dresses!

“I’ve decided to have… so far it’s gone up to 11 bridesmaids, but they’re going to be brides wearing 11 different wedding dresses!”

Hollyoaks airs weeknights at 6.30pm on Channel 4, with first look screenings at 7pm on E4.

Story via DigitalSpy

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Hollyoaks: Ste Hay’s HIV story begins!

Kieron Richardson as Ste

Kieron Richardson as Ste

Hollyoaks will begin Ste Hay’s HIV storyline as he attends a sexual health clinic.

The long-running story will begin next week when Ste gets a call from Connor, a stranger he previously had a one-night stand with.

When Ste eventually returns home, he is forced to tell John Paul that he might have HIV, after Connor informed him that he had recently been diagnosed.  With Ste in denial, it is left to John Paul to take action and he immediately makes an appointment for them to get tested.  Although John Paul initially goes to the clinic alone as Ste attends Peri’s concert instead, John Paul is relieved when Ste eventually turns up.

The couple make awkward small talk as they wait for their appointment but as emotions run high, John Paul soon snaps, saying that after everything he has been through, he may now have HIV because of Ste.

When John Paul and Ste are called in to see separate nurses, John Paul is relieved when he gets a negative result. However, it is a very different story for Ste, who is floored when his test comes back reactive.

As the truth about his diagnosis suddenly hits Ste, he breaks down at The Hutch in front of Sinead who is full of concern.  Later, John Paul promises to be there for him, but when he flinches as he goes to kiss Ste, it is clear that the couple are facing a very uncertain future.

Hollyoaks airs these scenes on Wednesday, January 21 at 6.30pm on Channel 4.

John Paul & Ste’s first Kiss:

Hollyoaks‘ executive producer Bryan Kirkwood commented: “We have wanted to tell this story for a long time and while HIV can affect anyone, infection rates in young gay men remain too high and to ignore that is to do the gay audience a disservice.

Hollyoaks is in a unique position to be able to talk directly to millions of young viewers and if the safe-sex message is not coming through education, we can help with that both on screen and through multi-platform support.

2015 is Hollyoaks‘ 20th year and to make that our ‘year of safe sex’ felt right for a show built upon telling rites of passage stories. With Ste’s HIV and other stories for our teenage characters, we will explore the many implications of unprotected sex and hope to encourage thoughtful debate amongst our audience.

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