British soap Hollyoaks to break new ground with HIV storyline

The British soap opera Hollyoaks will make history next year when the character Ste Hay will become the first major gay character in a British soap to be diagnosed with HIV. Ste (out actor Kieron Richardson) will be diagnosed after having sex with Connor, a stranger who is unaware that he is HIV-positive. Connor will later learn of his status and break the news to Ste. The long running storyline will kick off in January and producers have consulted with the Terrence Higgins Trust to ensure a nuanced and respectful portrayal. Hollyoaks airs on Channel 4 in the UK and US fans can watch new episodes on Hulu.

The announcement of Ste's story is timely as the 26th Annual World AIDS Day, an international observance in support of those living with HIV/AIDS and in memory of the lives lost in the epidemic, is coming up on December 1. Worldwide, there are an estimated 34 million people living with HIV and more than 35 million have already died from the virus. In the US, over 1.1 million people have HIV and almost 1 in 6 are unaware of their positive status.  Despite these numbers, storylines about people living with HIV/AIDS remain very rare on television.

There are numerous ways to get involved with World AIDS Day this year, by learning the facts and putting the knowledge into action. Another way to show support for those living with HIV/AIDS is by wearing the signature red ribbon on December 1. You can find out more about World Aids Day at www.worldaidsday.org.