Today is World AIDS Day.
I’ve always known about it, but this is my first time blogging about it. When I was younger, my attitude towards AIDS awareness was that is was sad, but not as important as hunger and homelessness, which affected me more directly since it seemed that we were always a paycheck or two away from the latter and learned to live with the former at times.
I can pinpoint that my attitude did change around the time that the soap ‘General Hospital’ (GH), started doing their annual Nurses’ Ball, which raised funds for AIDS. I can’t credit it completely for my change in attitude, but I can say that I paid more attention to the issue since the soap seemed to do this annually.
I started to read more about AIDS and the virus that causes it-HIV. I always knew that it was not a ‘gay disease,’ after all, Arthur Ashe and Ryan White contracted it. We did seem to act as if the only thing that would solve the problem was if people only had sexual realtions within the bounds of marriage-well now that we were testing every blood donation.
GH’s Nurses Ball is important, I think. It demonstrated that rather than being a cause du jour, it was something they were embracing. More importantly, it signalled an acceptance that AIDS is not something to be whispered about, but something to be discussed in the open. Of course GH took a more personal step in introducing not just a character who contracted HIV (Stone Cates), but allowing for a beloved character to contract it and remain for the most part still a major character on the show. This character is Robin Scorpio, daughter of superspies Anna Devane and Robert Scorpio.
Stone was her boyfriend. I recalled that he got HIV through his drug use during his time on the streets. Stone and Robin had unprotected one time and well, that was that. The actress did a small documentary about those who lived with HIV for daytime tv. I think what her character did in terms of AIDS awareness, was to show that anyone, even the daughter of superspies, who lived a charmed life in many ways could get HIV. Stone developed AIDS and died. Robin soldiered on, took her cocktails, had a stormy long term romance with Jason Morgan (who was extremely supportive of her condition) and became a doctor. In November of this year, her character had a baby, which was not a possibility in the early days of AIDS. In fact, her chief nuisance in the days of her romance with Jason, Carly Roberts, actually threw the fact that it was not safe for Robin to have sex and have children up in her face (Carly always seemed to know how hit someone where they lived.)
GH was not the first soap to feature a character living with HIV or AIDS. I supposed I could research it further, but I do know that ‘All My Children’ had a character named Cindy, who was a single mom who found love with kindly Stuart Chandler and who was dying from AIDS. Of course plotlines with her included kind of an AIDS 101 (ex. you can’t get AIDS from hugging someone who has HIV.) She died angelically, Stuart raised her son Scot and some of the denizens of Pine Valley realized saw the light. The great thing about Robin’s character was that while HIV was her reality, her plotlines did not center around suffering angelically or being brought out exclusively for World AIDS Day. Unfortunately, I wish that they would in these days of her storyline, return back to a bit more on the daily realities of living with HIV or even more on the global AIDS pandemic. They kind of did with another character whose reason for not being on the show or so long was that he served as a doctor in Africa, helping AIDS patients. I also wish that in some of the hospital scenes that they deal with the growing idea that many have, especially in the US that if you get HIV, that if you take some pills, it will be all right. Pills mind you that are expensive even if you could afford it, but are prohibitive if you can’t.
AIDS research has advanced so that Robin’s pregnancy and the birth of her daughter Emma had roots in reality. There is still a long way to go. There is no cure for AIDS and for every one Robin Scorpio, there are thousands who succumb to the disease due to lack of access to medicine and a supportive environment that would assist them in living with HIV.
Let us remember those who succumbed and cheer for those who continue to live in spite of AIDS.