Skip to main content

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.

Jessica Blair Marries John Abbott on The Young and the Restless, 1988

Teen model Cricket Blair (Lauralee Bell) finally got a family in the form of her mother Jessica. Jessica came to town with a secret, she had AIDS, and wanted desperately to reconnect with her daughter before dying. While in Genoa City, Jessica was romanced by and eventually married divorced cosmetics mogul John Abbott (Jerry Douglas). Even though Jessica hid the fact  she was dying from John early on, he still married her, only to soon after allow her a divorce to marry her first love, Cricket's biological father Jim Grainger, played by future Seinfeld scene stealer John O'Hurley.

Recommended Articles

Stuart's Wife Cindy Dies on All My Children, 1989

In 1989, Cindy Chandler (Ellen Wheeler), the wife of Adam's (David Canary) kind-hearted twin Stuart (also Canary), succumbed to AIDS, leaving behind her son Scott for the Chandlers to raise. Cindy didn't only have to deal with the ravages of AIDS. She had to face paranoia and hate-mongering in Pine Valley, namely from Stuart's own niece Skye (Robin Christopher), who acted out in fear and ignorance. Luckily, Skye eventually saw the error of her ways, and Cindy had the support of Stuart, Brooke (Julia Barr) and Dr. Angela Hubbard (Debbi Morgan). Wheeler won the Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for her powerful-yet-gentle portrayal of Cindy during this groundbreaking story arc.

Rev. Andrew Carpenter Brings The AIDS Quilt to Llanview on One Life to Live, 1992

The homophobia gay teen Billy Douglas (Ryan Phillippe) experienced in the fictional town of Llanview, PA on One Life to Live caused Rev. Andrew Carpenter (Wortham Christopher)—who had been falsely accused of molesting the boy by Marty Saybrooke (Susan Haskell)—to stand up and fight against ignorance and intolerance by bringing the famed AIDS Quilt to Llanview.

Stone Dies of AIDS on General Hospital, 1995

No soap ingenue has faced more adversity than Robin Scorpio (Kimberly McCullough) of Port Charles, New York. First her parents were presumed dead while trying to take down international terrorist Caesar Faison, then Stone Cates (Michael Sutton), the beautiful young man who proved to be her first love, died from complications of AIDS in 1995. Although Stone unwittingly passed on HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, to Robin, her story has not only been one of tragedy. Thanks to help of two brilliant physicians at General Hospital, the late Drs. Alan Quartermaine (Stuart Damon) and Tony Jones (Brad Maule), Robin sought treatment, including an extensive drug cocktail, that not only allowed her to survive, but thrive. With all the strides that have been made in the fight against HIV and AIDS, GH has provided sort of a fictional time capusule via Robin's saga and for that the soap should be commended. 

Robin Gives Birth to Emma; Marries Patrick on General Hospital, 2008

Much of this post has been about the horrors of AIDS— death, lost love, fear, etc. It's only fitting the final clips be about hope. Much like how real-life HIV patients, such as basketball legend Magic Johnson,have managed to lead long, productive lives, our beloved Robin has gone on to find love again— not once, but twice — give birth to a healthy baby and marry cocky-yet-well intentioned, recovering skirt chaser Dr. Patrick Drake (Jason Thompson) on General Hospital. Now if the couple, affectionately deemed "Scrubs" by their vocal fans, can just vanquish that psychotic tramp Dr. Lisa Niles (Brianna Brown), they can get back to the business of showing you can be in treatment for HIV and still have your Happily Ever After.