Hollyoaks set for ground-breaking HIV storyline

The UK soap will be the first to feature a major gay character with the disease

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The Independent Culture

Hollyoaks is set to become the first British soap to see a major gay character diagnosed as HIV positive, producers have revealed.

Regular cast member Ste Hay, played by Kieron Richardson, will discover he has the disease in January after having unprotected sex with an unknown man.

Ste’s journey with the condition will form the basis of a long-running plotline as he faces the personal implications, from the impact on his children and his relationship with John Paul McQueen to his own mental and physical health.

Channel 4 has been working with HIV charity the Terrence Higgins Trust to make the sensitive storyline as true to fact as possible.

While plot details are being kept under wraps, the basics will involve Ste having a one-night stand with a stranger called Connor, who does not know that he is HIV positive. Connor is diagnosed after their encounter and tells a devastated Ste, who then takes a test himself.

 

“We have wanted to tell this story for a lone time and while HIV can affect anyone, infection rates in young gay men remain too high and to ignore that is to do the gay audience a disservice,” said Bryan Kirkwood, Hollyoaks executive producer.

“Hollyoaks is in a unique position to be able to talk directly to millions of young viewers and if the safe-sex message is not coming through education, we can help with that both on screen and through multi-platform support.”

Will Harris, head of media at the Terrence Higgins Trust, confirmed that Ste’s powerful story will be “rooted in reality”.

“Every day in the UK, around eight more gay or bisexual men are told they have contracted HIV, most of them from someone who hadn’t yet been diagnosed,” he said.

“We each have a responsibility to protect ourselves and our partners by using condoms and testing regularly.”

A few years ago, Richardson himself came out as gay on This Morning and later said he received 17,000 emails of support, according to Pink News.

kieron-richardson.jpg
Kieron Richardson came out as gay on This Morning

Other soap characters living with HIV have included gay chef Joe Wallace who featured briefly on EastEnders in the early Nineties.

Joe, played by Jason Rush, encouraged the heterosexual Mark Fowler (Todd Carty) to tell his parents that he was HIV positive. He left Walford after being sacked by Ian for having the disease.

Mark, meanwhile, struggled with the restrictions of his illness and died in April 2004.

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