Olly Alexander holds back tears over record number of HIV tests in response to It’s a Sin

Lily Wakefield
·3-min read

It’s a Sin star Olly Alexander struggled to hold back tears as he responded to a record number of people getting tested for HIV after watching the show.

On Friday (5 February), at the end of National HIV Testing Week, UK HIV and sexual health charity Terence Higgins Trust (THT) confirmed that it had seen more tests ordered than ever before.

Richard Angell, head of policy and public affairs at THT, revealed on Twitter that the charity’s previous record for tests ordered in one day was 2,800. On Monday (1 February), a record-breaking 8,200 tests were ordered.

THT also wrote on Twitter: “The power of TV to change lives. It’s A Sin is Channel 4′s most binged watched new series and honours the heroes of the past — stopping our history being forgotten.

“It’s also led to more people than ever taking action and getting tested during National HIV Testing Week. What a legacy. LA!”

Responding to the news on BBC Breakfast as the cast reunited in a Zoom call, Alexander, who plays Ritchie Tozer on It’s a Sin, became choked up as he said: “I’m trying not to cry.

“I think it’s just amazing to see a real-time response to the show from the audience who is watching. I’m just really moved by it, honestly.”

His co-star Omari Douglas, who plays Roscoe, added: “The fact that a piece of television has had such a cultural impact, but also the public heat impact is just crazy. It’s so rare that telly has that effect.”

It’s a Sin star Olly Alexander previously revealed that he would join in with AIDS jokes as a scared, closeted kid.

It’s a Sin, created by Russell T Davies, follows a group of gay men in 1980s London at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic.

Olly Alexander told NME that he was educated under Thatcher’s Section 28, a viciously homophobic law that banned the “promotion” of homosexuality in school, which was repealed in 2003, when the actor and Years & Years frontman was 13.

He said: “I remember being scared that if I had sex, I would get HIV. That was something that was always in my mind; this anxiety that it could happen.

“There’s such a huge amount of shame that surrounds our sexuality, but the issue of what it means is something we’re still unpacking now. There’s still so much stigma.”

“I just knew it was connected to gay people and it would be used as the butt of jokes,” he added.

“There was an episode of Family Guy with a song and dance routine called ‘You’ve Got AIDS’ and that was sung at school.

“And you know, I joined in. At the time, I didn’t understand the way it made me feel or my own sexuality. I was just afraid of going anywhere near that.”