Responsible Storytelling of an HIV pregnancy sign now

An Open Letter to the ABC/Disney network,

This past year, Bono's (RED) campaign swept across the internet and media with its use of retail, commercial, and musical venues to bring awareness to AIDS and benefit the Global Fund. Celebrities such as Sharon Stone, Bono, Ashley Judd, Elizabeth Taylor, Naomi Watts, and others used their appeal and status to raise funds and highlight AIDS causes. A large number of articles focused on the failure of generating an AIDS vaccine, the rise of HIV in young people, and that 1 in 4 individuals that have HIV are unaware of it. Despite all of this information, the public still has the propensity to turn an apathetic eye toward all of this because it doesn't touch their lives--it happens in another neighborhood, city, or country.

We believe that scripted television, as a medium, has the ability to reach viewers in a far-reaching way and with resonance. A fictional character has the ability to put a familiar face to HIV/AIDS, one that is relatable and not so easily dismissed. One particular storyline on your show "General Hospital" has the potential of transcending the clichĐąd soap opera plot to become a compelling piece of groundbreaking television. This storyline is of Robin Scorpio (played by Kimberly McCullough) who is HIV-positive and her boyfriend Patrick Drake (Jason Thompson), both characters rich in history and ties to core families of the show. In no other genre is there an opportunity to provide a daily look into the joys, anxiety, and complications that a real-life HIV-positive couple would go through in planning to have a biological child of their own. The potential of myriad health related story arcs (medication, artificial insemination, risks, etc.) as well as character growth arcs (fear of loss, parental worries, living arrangements, etc.) the show could explore is vast, thereby negating any reason for lack of inspiration or direction.

We respectfully request that the network tell this story responsibly, without a "soapy" angle that would detract from the implications of an HIV pregnancy. With the writers' strike causing uncertainty and the ratings for daytime television at its lowest points, it would be easy to utilize huge twists to bring in viewers and help save the genre. However, we feel there is much more potential in grabbing the attention of mainstream media and AIDS service organizations if General Hospital strove to match the seriousness of their groundbreaking Emmy-winning AIDS storyline introduced more than ten years ago. Our hope is that Robert Iger, at the helm of Disney/ABC and sitting on the Executive Advisory Board of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, will ensure the writers of General Hospital will not cheapen the story with stunts--this dramatic groundbreaking story can stand on its own.

We are aware that fans of daytime television are usually dismissed as "crazies" or "fanatics"; however, that is unfairly dismissive of this particular viewership that has given back philanthropically tenfold and has high expectations of responsible storytelling of social issues. We the undersigned, expect the network to rise to the challenge--to take up the torch and light more awareness about HIV and AIDS via compelling and responsible writing.

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Alyssa DunnBy:
SustainabilityIn:
Petition target:
Disney/ABC network

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