EastEnders to work with charity on new storyline tackling HIV

EastEnders is set to work with the Terrence Higgins Trust charity on a new storyline tackling HIV.

The BBC One soap opera has revealed plans to team up with the HIV and sexual health charity to ensure the storyline will “accurately reflect and raise awareness of HIV”.

The upcoming story will focus on Zack Hudson, played by James Farrar, after he receives an HIV diagnosis.

The news comes after Zack’s former acquaintance, Brett, turns up in Walford and reveals that he has been diagnosed with HIV and urges Zack to get tested.

With the help of the Terrence Higgins Trust, the soap will follow Zack’s experience, from the aftermath of receiving a HIV diagnosis to the treatment options and implications, reflecting what it is now like to live with the virus.

Speaking about the storyline, which is set to begin next week, Ian Green, chief executive at the Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “It’s been incredible to work with EastEnders on Zack’s story to show people across the UK that an HIV diagnosis doesn’t have to stop you from living life to the fullest.

“During the height of the HIV epidemic in the 1990s, we worked with EastEnders on Mark Fowler’s story to ensure HIV was portrayed accurately on screen.

“Mark was the first mainstream British TV character to be diagnosed with HIV. His story was viewed by millions and helped change attitudes about the virus when fear and misinformation was rife.

“Over 30 years on from Mark’s storyline and sadly myths about HIV are still held by far too many people.

“The incredible progress we’ve made around HIV means people on effective HIV treatment can’t pass on the virus and can have a normal lifespan.

“We hope that Zack’s storyline will educate viewers on the reality of HIV in 2023 and spark conversations in living rooms across the UK.”

The soap previously explored HIV in 1991 in a storyline involving character Mark Fowler – played by Todd Carty – which saw him become the first mainstream soap character to be diagnosed with the virus.

Mark lived with HIV on the soap for 13 years before the character died off-screen in 2004.

After Mark’s initial diagnosis storyline, the soap also went on to explore the difficulties of engaging in new relationships as a person with HIV.

Speaking about Zack’s upcoming storyline, EastEnders executive producer Chris Clenshaw said: “EastEnders has never shied away from covering sensitive issues and Zack’s story is one of these.

“There are still so many myths and disinformation surrounding HIV, so working closely with Terrence Higgins Trust has enabled us to really understand what it is like for those that are diagnosed with HIV and we hope that this storyline will bring more awareness of HIV and what it is like to live with the virus in 2023.”