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Liverpool Echo
Liverpool Echo
Paul McAuley

Liverpool's oldest LGBT+ charity praises BBC's EastEnders storyline

EastEnders' latest storyline involving HIV has been praised by Liverpool's Sahir House.

The BBC soap has been working on a new story which will see character, Zack Hudson, diagnosed with the virus. Played by James Farrar, the soon-to-be-dad receives the diagnosis this month when a former acquaintance, Brett, turns up in Walford and reveals he has been diagnosed with HIV and urges Zack to get tested.

Eastenders has been working alongside Terence Higgins Trust, an HIV and sexual health charity, to accurately reflect and raise awareness of HIV, from the aftermath of receiving an HIV diagnosis to the treatment options and implications for Zack reflecting what it is now like to live with the virus.

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Ian Green, chief executive at 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. His story was viewed by millions and helped change attitudes about the virus when fear and misinformation were 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 storyline has been praised by the city’s longest continuously running LGBTQ+ health and wellbeing charity, Sahir house. The charity has been offering HIV support, prevention, information and training across Merseyside since 1985 - six years before EastEnders' Mark Fowler was diagnosed with the virus.

Ant Hopkinson, CEO of Sahir House, told the ECHO: “It’s brilliant to see one of our most-loved soaps develop a new issue-based HIV storyline around Zack Hudson with support from Terrence Higgins Trust.

“I still vividly recall the watershed moment of Mark Fowler’s diagnosis on the soap - the first mainstream British TV character to be diagnosed with HIV. I trust that Zack’s story will show the public what it is like for those who are diagnosed with HIV today - and hopefully help to dispel the many myths and disinformation which still surround HIV.”

The soap’s executive producer, Chris Clenshaw, claims EastEnders has “never shied away from covering sensitive issues” and Zack’s story will be no different.

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