Friday, April 14, 2006

TV concerns

Please don't call our house on Thursday nights. We become couch potatoes for three hours while we watch our favorite shows. We've been addicted to Survivor since the first show. CSI (but not its clones) mesmerizes us. Without a Trace comes in third on our list of evening's choices, but it is "must see" on Thursdays because we would have to be surgically removed from the couch by the time it comes on.

Last night's episode was one of those that included HIV in the story line. In a nutshell, HIV-positive pregnant woman is missing; FBI team looks for her; interesting plot twists ensue. What disturbed me about the episode was the carefully neutral-verging-on-positive attitudes of the FBI agents. They didn't seem to be particularly repelled by the woman's status nor judgmental about her decision to have a child. They were clearly negative in their attitudes toward the wandering husband, so it is not a case of maintaining a professionally neutral attitude. On the other hand, one health care worker (a phlebotomist) was shown voicing negative opinions to the HIV-positive character in very strong terms (good acting: you just wanted to slap her!). The neutral-positive attitudes of the FBI characters allowed them to make statements about the need to get the woman to the hospital for a C-section so she wouldn't pass the virus on to her baby and to cite transmission statistics to the phlebotomist. While it was helpful to see the positive attitudes and to have that sort of information shown on television, there was no mention that I heard of the role of medications in preventing perinatal transmission. It was as if Caesarean birth were the only means of preventing infection.

Another disturbing area was the fact that the woman and her husband were a discordant couple. There was clear judgement from the story writers about the old boyfriend who had infected the woman. There was judgement about the husband and his affair, but that judgement seemed to be focused on adultery and not on the possibility of transmitting the virus. There was no curiosity about how the couple managed to get the wife pregnant without risking infection of the husband. The word "condom" was never uttered.

While positive for its portrayal of an HIV-positive woman and her desire to have a child, the show left more questions and even misapprehensions about prevention. I'm guessing that I am going to be mulling this one over for quite a while.

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