Soap Operas and AIDS: From Tragedies to Triumph

One of the beautiful things about daytime soap operas is the five-day-a-week format often allows daytime dramas to explore topics in a much broader fashion than their primetime counterparts, thus providing storytellers and actors alike a powerful medium to address what’s going on in the world. That has definitely been the case with daytime’s portrayal of the AIDS epidemic.

From daytime’s first AIDS victim Dawn (Barbara Tyson) on Another World in 1988, to the tragic romance of Cindy and Stuart (Ellen Wheeler and David Canary) on All My Children and the death of Robin’s (Kimberly McCullough) first love Stone (Michael Sutton) on General Hospital, soaps have offered up some of the most powerful storylines concerning the devastation of this disease on any screen—big or small—but what they’ve also done is offer hope.

No, GH doesn’t show Robin taking her meds, or struggling with complications as much as some fans and critics (this one included) would like, but through Robin’s ability to live a full life, complete with love, humor and even the occasional battle with a psycho rival, we are reminded that while HIV is still something we must all remain vigilant about in order to one day find a cure, it is no longer a death sentence.

On this World AIDS DAY, Dec. 1, 2010, join us in saluting all the daytime soap executives, producers, writers, actors and publicists who have done their part to spread awareness about this often misunderstood disease via their art. Also, let’s take a moment to remember the ones we’ve lost and to be thankful for how far treatment and research has brought us. After the jump, watch clips from a few of the AIDS storylines that have touched us over the years.

Dawn Rollo and Scott LaSalle’s Romance on Another World, 1988

Another World gave daytime its first storyline where a soap character, Dawn Rollo, died of AIDS. Dawn’s fiance, Scott LaSalle (Hank Cheyne), was the adopted son of the wealthy Reginald Love (John Considine) and amnesiac Mary McKinnon (Denise Alexander). After Dawn passed, Scott eventually reunited with his former girlfriend Cheryl McKinnon (his sister by adoption) and left town, but Dawn’s valiant struggle and Scott’s fierce love for her was never forgotten.

9 Responses

  1. Profile photo of luverica

    Jamey, you got me crying over here at work watching these clips. Ryan-Scott, I couldn’t said it better. It points out why stories are not what they use to be. Bill and Douglas are no longer with us, Agnes is not writing regularly, and no one has the God-given sense to hire Claire Labine as their Head Writer. Good times!

  2. Profile photo of alstonboy4315

    Ryan Scott, it was Keesha and Nathan. I think she was also involved with Malcolm…………..

    We all owe a debt of gratitude to the GRAND DAMES of soaps who had the courage, skill and understanding to craft these timelessly relevant stories.

    We all probably know someone who has had this horrible disease, and I hope and pray that a cure is found soon!!!

  3. Profile photo of curacaoman

    LUZA, LUZA, LUZA, how low will you go?

    I used to really appreciate GH’s awesome efforts to commemorate World Aids Day.

    What did we get today?: NOTHING, NADA, NIENTE, NIKS.

    Would it have been so hard to let Robin light a candle in honor of everyone surviving with or who succmubed to the disease?

    I have never hated Robert Guza Jr., THE LUZA, as much as I do this day. GO TO HELL, LUZA

  4. Profile photo of Miry

    Three things:
    1.) Who the F*ck would kill off Stuart!?!
    2.) Rev. Andrew Carpenter had my cryin’ over here ya’ll! And dang was Ryan P. awesome in this storyline.
    3.) Thanks for posting!! These stories were amazing!

  5. Profile photo of Bob Lamm
    Bob Lamm

    Sorry, Jamey, but I’m only with you in part on this issue. There have indeed been some very admirable aspects of daytime soaps’ treatment of the AIDS crisis. But I believe it’s essential to note the repeated avoidance of any storyline focusing on a gay male character with AIDS.

    This avoidance was especially shameful because it occurred even as gay men from within the daytime soap industry–some who were seen on the air, some who worked behind the camera–were dying of AIDS. In my view, these men were betrayed by their own industry, which didn’t have the courage and integrity to treat THEIR deaths as important.

    (NOTE: edited because when I wrote this I left out the crucial word “gay” at the end of the first paragraph.)

  6. Profile photo of Ryan-Scott

    Thank you to Claire Labine and Wendy Riche for the GH story.

    Thank you to Agnes Nixon for the AMC story.

    Thank you to Bill Bell for the Y&R stories (Jessica – Cricket’s mom & the story with Nathan and….can’t remember her name)

    Thank you to Douglas Marland for the ATWT story with Margo.

    Thank you to Thom Racina for AW’s story with Dawn.

  7. Profile photo of Ryan-Scott

    Oh God! I forgot about OLTL! Thanks for the reminder.
    Thank you Michael Malone & Linda Gottlieb.
    When they shot on location and had pieces of the quilt….gives me chills just thinking about it.

    As for Stuart, Chuck Pratt killed him using Adam. Don’t ask how or why.
    Suffice to say it was 24 carat Grade A CRAP.

  8. Profile photo of jefhamlin

    On ATWT, Hank’s mostly offscreen boyfriend Charles had AIDS in the 1988-89 time period too. Hank’s struggles to see and help make healthcare choices for his partner over the objections of his family were an integral part of the storyline, and an issue LGBT couples still face today. I don’t know why Hank Eliot is always forgotten as the first on-going, integrated, significant LGBT character on soaps.

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