Zack Hudson (James Farrar) decided against telling his closest friends about his HIV diagnosis in EastEnders, after Martin Fowler (James Bye) recalled his brother Mark’s (Todd Carty) death.
The bartender discovered last month that he was HIV-positive after he went for a test on the orders of an old acquaintance.
The diagnosis came as a shock to him, and he opened up to Sam Mitchell (Kim Medcalf) earlier this week, who subsequently went to the clinic to find out all the facts about HIV so that she could support him.
Zack discussed his fears with her, worried about the stigma of being HIV-positive, but Sam was quick to remind him that it’s no longer a ‘death sentence’.
Following some advice from her, the barman decided to share his diagnosis with Sharon Watts (Letitia Dean) and Martin.
Martin and Sharon, however, were in the middle of reminiscing about Mark, whose birthday it is tomorrow.
‘If [Mark] had got sick fifteen to twenty years later then he’d still be with us’, said Sharon, as Martin nodded in agreement, filling Zack in on the fact that Mark died of AIDS.
Zack was taken aback, shocked that Martin hadn’t told him previously. ‘It’s not something you broadcast, is it?’, said Martin, leaving Zack upset as he decided to keep his HIV diagnosis to himself.
Mark, as longtime viewers will recall, was the first mainstream soap character to be diagnosed with HIV, receiving his diagnosis back in 1991.
EastEnders worked with the Terrence Higgins Trust on the storyline, which received acclaim for raising awareness and educating people at a time when there were a lot of misconceptions about HIV and AIDS.
Mark, meanwhile, revealed that he was HIV-positive to mum and dad Pauline and Arthur during one of the most-watched episodes ever, airing Boxing Day of 1991, and would remain on the Square for another 12 years, before departing on his motorbike.
He later died from an AIDS-related form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, with Martin receiving a phone call in 2004 to notify him of his brother’s passing.
EastEnders is working with the Terrence Higgins Trust once more on Zack’s storyline, to ensure it’s portrayed as accurately as possible.
Treatment options and implications for Zack will seek to reflect what it is now like to live with the virus in 2023 as the story progresses.
You can find out answers to common questions, myths and misinformation about HIV and Zack’s story here.
EastEnders continues Thursday February 2 at 7:30pm on BBC One.
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