‘ Ste Hay will become soap’s first gay character to be diagnosed with HIV in a new storyline.
The character – played by gay actor Kieron Richardson – will be seen struggling with the social, medical and psychological consequences of the diagnosis, which comes after a night of unprotected sex with a stranger.
Ste will sleep with a Connor, a young gay man who is unaware of his HIV status. When he gets a positive diagnosis, he suggests that Ste should also take a test.
Executive producer Bryan Kirkwood, said: “We have wanted to tell this story for a long 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.
“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.
“2015 is Hollyoaks‘ 20th year and to make that our ‘year of safe sex’ felt right for a show built upon telling rites of passage stories. With Ste’s HIV and other stories for our teenage characters, we will explore the many implications of unprotected sex and hope to encourage thoughtful debate amongst our audience.”
Meanwhile, Richardson explained he was “uneducated about HIV” as his sex education in school didn’t cover it.
He added: “My first HIV test was after one of my first gay sexual experiences. I was a bit stupid and had to get fully checked out and one of the tests was HIV and I remember thinking, ‘Oh God, if I’ve got it, I’m going to die. Waiting for the results was terrifying. I associated HIV with the 1980s.”
The actor also said that it is a “massive honour” to take on the hard-hitting storyline, adding: “And if people think I’m HIV-positive in real life, let them.”