HIV As a Weapon: Has ‘General Hospital’ Gone Too Far?

I’m all for a love triangle, a good old soapy story of romantic rivalry, complete with sex, lies, videotape (courtesy of a cell phone, this being 2011 and all) and catfights.

Throw in one psycho who would do just about anything — even commit cold-blooded murder — to get his or her way, and I’m so there.

The doctor-without-borders-or-morals story featuring General Hospital Interim Chief of Staff Robin Scorpio, neurosurgeon Patrick Drake and orthopedic surgeon Lisa Niles as the evil genus has been dragging on for years now on “General Hospital.” To be honest, it was never much of a triangle. Yes, Patrick cheated on his wife Robin with his old college flame Lisa, but he regretted it the minute his clothes were back on. Lisa never stood a chance.

What’s a girl to do? In Lisa’s case, go nuts. I won’t list all of the ways she tried to exact revenge on Robin and Patrick for making her a woman scorned, but her latest ploy — coming after waking up from a months-long coma with super-human strength — must be the worst plot twist in the history of soap operas.

She sneaked onto the boat where Robin and Patrick were throwing a party for his brother Matt, who had just gotten published in a medical journal, with several of their friends. She then proceeded to drug the crew, toss Elizabeth overboard, and somehow overpower Patrick, knock him out and tie him to a bed. That’s a lot of heavy lifting for a woman recently roused from a comatose state.

Enter Lisa with Robin, whom she’d also rendered unconscious. She tied up Robin and proceeded to reveal her sinister plan. She was going to withdraw blood from Robin, who is HIV positive, and infect Patrick with it. Maybe this sounded like a good idea during a midnight writers’ brainstorming session, but gaping holes aside, it played out onscreen like an insult of epic proportions, dismantling of one of the groundbreaking stories in the show’s history.

But what would you expect from a soap that had a teenager fall in love with her rapist and then turned them into the most popular soap supercouple ever 30 years ago? That must have been some slap in the face back then to women who’d actually had to endure the agony of rape and carry on, but in its latest breach of sensitivity, “GH” has truly outdone itself.

Some brief backstory: In the mid-’90s, Robin Scorpio, then a teenager, was diagnosed as being HIV positive after being infected by her boyfriend Stone, who died of AIDS. Now a serious condition that affects so many people around the world is being used as a plot point, a means of getting payback on romantic rivals.

That’s entertainment? HIV and AIDS should never be used for cheap entertainment. They should be treated carefully, with great respect, not as tools to shock viewers. What a great example “GH” set by having a major character — a teen, no less — contract HIV and then having her live with it gracefully, embarking on a successful medical career, finding love and giving birth to a healthy daughter. Then the show goes and undoes all of those good deeds with one wave of a vial full of HIV-infected blood.

A character can’t come up with a plot so twisted and live. Lisa is not long for this world. But how will “General Hospital” pay? Its crime of insensitivity against so many people living bravely with HIV and AIDS is as bad as any of Lisa’s crimes of passion against Robin and Patrick.


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