On the January 18 episode of the daytime serial General Hospital Dr. Robin Scorpio’s fans had their wishes granted—the HIV-positive doc  (played by Kimberly McCullough) learned that she is finally, 100 percent pregnant. Fans have long awaited the announcement: Rumors that Scorpio would bear the child of her on-again off-again boyfriend, the HIV-negative Dr. Patrick Drake, have been flying high for some time.  As early as last September, in fact, POZ reported the possibility that an HIV-positive mommy story line would rock the make-believe town of Port Charles. At the time, To ensure that ABC and its parent company, Disney, hear their concerns, Beard and Throckmorton wrote them an open letter, which 1,100 fans signed online. The duo overnighted it to GH’s publicist, Mitch Messinger, on January 15. At press time, Scrubs had not received an official response from anyone at the network, but GH’s head producer, Jill Farren Phelps, told POZ that they welcomed the letter. “We love that our fans are passionate enough about this story to take a stance on the way they’d like it told,” she said. Indeed, Beard emphasized that their grassroots mini-movement is friendly, not adversarial. “We have high expectations based on [past effective story lines],” she says.  “We know that they can deliver and we are just hoping that they give it enough focus and do it right.”  

But is it TV’s responsibility to educate audiences about health care? While even the Scrubs fans allow that television’s main task is to entertain, studies suggest that almost 50 percent of U.S. viewers grasp health-related information from watching television, especially soaps. Daytime dramas have proven effective at delivering prevention and general information about HIV/AIDS to their extremely loyal audiences. Because viewers are so deeply tied to the lives of the characters, they are more prone to listen to advice given by them.

Phelps says she also recognizes TV’s power to teach and claims that one of GH’s major goals is to educate their audience. “[This] gives us the opportunity to inform our viewers about medical advancements made since Robin’s diagnosis in 1995 and show that it is possible for an HIV positive woman to have biological children without passing the virus down to them,” she says. What’s more, Phelps says, GH has always used expert medical consultants to ensure accuracy—in plotlines that have ranged over the years from heartthrob Stone’s AIDS death to Monica’s breast cancer to Sonny’s bipolar disorder. “[Our fans] can rest assured that this story will not be sensationalized,” states Phelps. “Like similar narratives centered on Robin’s HIV, the point is to inform and to be compelling.”

Kimberly McCullough, the actress who plays Robin tells POZ, “I have talked to many people who didn’t know that it is possible for an HIV-positive woman to give birth to a healthy baby,” she continues. “I hope that this story will do a good job to inform people about how possible it is. Just like any disease, it is always good to bring light to stories of hope and progress in medicine.”

With almost seven months left to watch Robin’s baby bump grow, will her tale unfold realistically—or will a hunger for ratings overcome a sense of responsibility.  To be continued…