AIDS: censoring the prevention message

BMJ 2002; 325 doi: (Published 24 August 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:448
  1. Pat Sidley, freelance journalist
  1. Johannesburg, South Africa

    Coverage of AIDS on South African soaps and chat shows has been dubbed brilliant.” The shortfall lies in its news and current affairs programmes

    A proposal to introduce an HIV positive character into the US version of the children's television programme Sesame Street was ditched last month after the idea provoked uproar among Republican politicians. The show's producers were said to be interested in following the lead of the South African version of Sesame Street, which will introduce a character with the virus later this year in a new series to be shown on one of the state owned channels. Yet the kind of row that the proposal caused in the United States would have seemed strange in South Africa, where the idea was greeted with a yawn when it was announced in the country's largest circulating Sunday newspaper.

    Sesame Street—a victim of the former South African regime's fear of all things foreign—was allowed on to the country's television screens only in the past couple of years. By then, South Africa had changed governments and its world view, dropped many of its old censorship laws, and developed one of the world's most severe AIDS epidemics. It had also developed a new style of censorship, which relies on …

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