Things That Matter

There’s A New Character On Plaza Sesamo And She Happens To Be HIV-Positive

Sesame Street has long been known for its inclusive agenda, not only in its United States iteration but also in the many versions of the show worldwide. The show was originally released in the 1969-1970 season in the United States, and uses puppets, live action actors and celebrities to convey educational and inclusive messages through songs, dance, laughter, some mild cheekiness and a lot of love. Characters such as Cookie Monster and Elmo have inspired generations of little children and their parents to be kinder, more resilient and overall awesome.

Sesame street just turned 50 and its cultural saliency cannot be underestimated. Among its many celebrity guests we have seen Muhammad Ali, Burt Lancaster, David Beckham, Beyoncé, BB King, Robin Williams, David Bowie, Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift, among many others. 

So it came as no surprise when the South African version of the program announced the launch of their new character, a girl named Kami (we just love her name yo!). 

Kami loves to dance, dress with cool streetwear and, by the way, she is HIV-positive.

Credit: @LoveTakalani / Twitter

The show is called Takalani Sesame in South Africa and its producers describe it as a show: “Promoting literacy, numeracy and basic life skills. A distinctly South African television, radio and community outreach program.”

This type of advocacy is key in a country like South Africa, where Apartheid is a not-so-distant memory and racial conflict is sadly still an important challenge for social cohesion. HIV levels in the country are also high, and some children are born with the virus as there is perinatal transmission from mother to child which is not always prevented due to limited access to the proper health services. 

Kami is five-years-old and lives a happy and giving existence.

Credit: @LoveTakalani / Twitter

The HIV virus is part of Kami’s family life and the show tried to educate young audiences on the facts and myths about HIV-positive people. Her name is derived from the Setwani word kamogelo, which means acceptance. She is a healthy carrier of the virus but knows well how it can affect lives, as her mom died from it. Her mission in life is to inform others about what an HIV-positive status means, but also how to be accepting towards others, particularly if they are different. 

Kami was revealed to the world in 2002, but her message is more relevant today than ever before.

Credit: Takalani Sesame / YouTube

Kami is a real celebrity and has been named a “champion for children worldwide” by UNICEF. the UN agency in charge of promoting children’s wellbeing. It is amazing to see how directly they deal with the issue, without sugarcoating reality, while at the same time keeping the show child friendly. For example, in this episode Kami is sad because other kids don’t want to play with her, so her friends clearly explain that touching an HIV-positive person would get you sick. It is heartwarming and poignant at the same time. 

Sesame Street uses puppets to teach kids about harsh realities worldwide.

Kami is not the only Sesame Street character that has taught kids about concepts that are hard to grasp because they belong to the realm of death, war and disease. As Hank Stuever reminded us in a 2019 article in The Washington Post, producers have dealt with social issues for years, which is one of the reasons why the show is so endearing.

He writes: “‘Sesame’ has helped its viewers cope with divorce, the incarceration of a parent and the deployment of family members in the military. Julia, a Muppet with autism, made her 2017 debut on the TV show to wide acclaim and gratitude from parents. The Workshop reaches children affected by war or hurricanes and other disasters. In Afghanistan, it showed that girls can and should go to school”. The show is good in measuring the cultural temperature of the times and dealing with issues that affect kids and kids care about. 

Besides Julia, a character with autism, the show made an important inclusion in the United States, as reported by Vancouver Province: “Sesame Workshop, the non-profit behind the show, has welcomed Karli, a Muppet in foster care, as well as her “for-now” parents, Dalia and Clem. All three Muppets appear in videos posted online as part of an initiative to provide free resources to caregivers navigating difficult issues, such as family homelessness, foster care and trauma.”

This is what children’s programming should be all about: issues that are complex to understand and explain, and finding ways to make things approachable for the little ones. Last year the show introduced the first muppet to be experiencing homelessness, a growing problem among struggling families in the United States and elsewhere. 

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The Second Person Cured Of HIV Is Reported To Still Be Free Two Years Later

Entertainment

The Second Person Cured Of HIV Is Reported To Still Be Free Two Years Later

Chip Somodevilla / Getty

Just a small bit of good news during these hard times.

Adam Castillejo, an Argentinian man based in London is known as the second person ever to be cured of HIV. Two years after being cured of the disease he is still free of the virus.

Last week, The Lancet HIV revealed in their medical journal that Castillejo finished HIV antiretroviral therapy.

In his efforts to treat lymphoma, Castillejo underwent a stem cell transplant. At the time, his donor carried a mutation known as CCR5-delta 32. CCR5-delta 32 is resistant to HIV and researchers said treatment for his lymphoma not only saved Castillejo’s life but also cured him of HIV.

According to CNN, “HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a life-long viral infection that attacks the body’s immune system and can have significant health consequences. There is no widely available cure, however, the virus is treatable with a combination of drugs known as antiretroviral therapy that reduces the amount of virus in a person’s blood and it is preventable by using PrEP.”

PrEP was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2012 for medical use.

According to UNAids there 37.9 million people across the globe were living with HIV in 2018.

“Our findings show that the success of stem cell transplantation as a cure for HIV, first reported nine years ago in the Berlin patient, can be replicated,” said Ravindra Gupta, a professor at the University of Cambridge’s clinical microbiology department.

As part of his lymphoma treatment, Castillejo underwent one stem-cell transplantation and did not have radiotherapy treatment applied to his whole body as part of his treatment.

Castillejo’s recovery form HIV is a light in studies related to the treatment of the virus and ways in which to pursue less intensive treatment approaches to curing it. “It is important to note that this curative treatment is high-risk, and only used as a last resort for patients with HIV who also have life-threatening hematological malignancies,” Gupta warned about the potential to use a similar method in pursuing invasive treatment of the virus.

Because of the high risks involved with such curative treatment, it is not one being offered broadly to patients with HIV.

This is particularly true when it comes to those that on successful antiretroviral treatment.

The great news is that Castillejo is the second reported patient to undergo this experimental treatment. The authors on his study have said that while he will require extensive observation it won’t have to be quite as regular.

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A 5-Year-Old Latino Boy Stole His Parents Car And Told The Police Who Pulled Him Over He Was Buying A Lamborghini

Things That Matter

A 5-Year-Old Latino Boy Stole His Parents Car And Told The Police Who Pulled Him Over He Was Buying A Lamborghini

Utah Highway Patrol / Twitter

Talk about being resourceful.

In Utah, a 5-year-old boy with a whopping $3 in his pocket took a joy ride in his parents’ car with plans to drive to California. When police pulled him over, he told officers that he wanted to buy a Lamborghini. This was, apparently, after his mother refused to take him to buy the luxury car when he asked her to buy him one.

According to reports, a trooper saw the SUV (driven by the boy) weaving on Interstate 15 at 30 mph.

In the dash-camera footage of the encounter, Trooper Rick Morgan addressed the kid saying “How old are you? You’re 5 years old?… Wow … Where did you learn to drive a car?”

Speaking to KSL-TV, Morgan said that when he pulled the kid over, he had to help him get the SUV into park mode. “He was sitting on the front edge of the seat so that he could reach the brake pedal to keep the car stopped while I was standing there,” Morgan explained.

After being pulled over, the child (identified as Adrian Zamarripa) said that all he wanted to do was drive to California to buy a Lamborghini for himself. Remember that part about the $3 in his pocket?

Right.

According to Morgan, no one was hurt by Zamarripa.

Zamarripa wasn’t able to buy the car, which at a new rate is worth $200,000 but he has been able to drive around the block in them since.

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Lamborghini owner Jeremy Neves heard Zamarripa’s story and decided to take him out on a little spin of his own. When news of Neves offer went viral, it wasn’t long before a celebrity luxury car dealer offered to fly him out to California.

According to a report by TMZ, RD Whittington, who is the owner of the brand Wires Only, flew Zamarripa and his family to Los Angels. While at the dealership he was able to sit in Lamborghini, a Ferrari, and a Hummer. The dealership also organized it so that Zamarripa was able to FaceTime with Shaq and Lil Pump and had the chance to meet Jamie Foxx in person.

In response to criticism that their kind gestures might only cause other kids to seek out similar rewards by copying Zamarripa’s behavior, Neves explained “I’m absolutely inspired by the principles that he displayed of success ― knowing what he wants, going after it… Absolutely, I’m not encouraging kids to go out and take their parents’ car, and do anything else that’s illegal. I’m not advocating that at all.”

Of course, Zamarripa, has received quite a bit of positive attention for his actions, this story is not without its consequences. According to CNN, the boy’s parents are punishing him for stealing their car. Fortunately for them, the Weber County District Attorney won’t be pushing to charge his parents with neglect charges.

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