EastEnders has inspired a huge spike in online HIV research through its latest storyline.

Eastenders Character Zack Hudson in deep thought in Eastenders scene, after receiving a positive HIV diagnosis.

EastEnders is working with the pioneering charity, the Terrence Higgins Trust on the sensitive storyline, which features popular character Zack Hudson and explores the aftermath of receiving a HIV diagnosis.

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus, ‘Immunodeficiency’ refers to the weakening of the immune system by the virus and the most recent estimate (2019) suggests there are 106,890 people living with HIV in the UK.

In a recent episode, Zack (played by James Farrar) was diagnosed with HIV, after finally deciding to get tested after an old friend who he had previously shared needles with, confirmed he was HIV-positive.

The storyline will follow Zack as he adjusts to living with the virus and will explore what it is now like to live with the virus with the medical progress that has been made in the treatment of HIV/AIDS over the last few decades.

The incredible advancements in tackling HIV and the modern treatments now available, means people on effective HIV treatment who have an undetectable viral load, are not able to pass on the virus to others and can have a normal lifespan.

Chris Clenshaw, Executive Producer of the BBC soap, 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.”

The Terrance Higgins Trust’s website has welcomed a 75% increase in visits to their website since the Zack was given his positive diagnoses.

Ian Green said: “Since it aired, we have seen a jump in the number of people accessing information about HIV from our website…Zack’s diagnosis has already started conversations in living rooms across the UK, and these much-needed discussions around the reality of HIV today will continue as his story unfolds”.

EastEnders was one of the first UK dramas to explore the impact of HIV/AIDS back in the early 1990s when character Mark Fowler was diagnosed. With the new storyline the BBC soap, along with the Terrance Higgins Trust, hope to spark conversation, and dispel the myths about HIV that still remain and educate viewers on the reality of living with the condition today.

Ian Green said: “During the height of the HIV epidemic in the 1990s, we worked with EastEnders on Mark Fowler’s storyline to ensure HIV was portrayed accurately on screen. Mark’s story was ground-breaking – it helped change a generation’s attitude about HIV at a time when hysteria was rife. We’re delighted to be working with the BBC again on Zack’s storyline to show how much medical progress has been made since the Mark Fowler days… to show people across the UK that an HIV diagnosis doesn’t have to stop you from living life to the fullest…but also how stigma continues to be a huge burden on the lives of people living with HIV”.

EastEnders airs Monday-Thursday on BBC One at 7.30pm and also streams on BBC iPlayer.

Please visit The Terrance Higgins Trust if you require support and/or need further information on testing and treatment for both HIV and AIDS.


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