Kieron Richardson: Hollyoaks HIV storyline is not a stereotype

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Hollyoaks actor Kieron Richardson says his character’s upcoming HIV-related storyline is not a stereotype but based on modern-day reality.

Speaking on Gaydio’s breakfast show, Richardson said: “Some people have had the opinion that we shouldn’t really be doing it because we don’t want to be stereotyped and it is just gay people that get HIV.

“My opinion on it is that we aren’t doing that and that probably is why it hasn’t been done before because people are shying away from it. We can’t get away from the fact that unfortunately it is predominately on the rise at the moment within the gay community.

“We do need to talk about it so people go and get tested. I think there is over 26,000 people living in the UK that don’t actually know they have got HIV so if this storyline makes people go and get tested, then it stops the virus spreading.”

Last week it was announced Richardson’s character Ste Hay will next year become the first major gay character in a British soap to be diagnosed with HIV.

Ste will be diagnosed with HIV in January after having sex with a stranger, Connor, who is unaware that he is HIV positive.

Connor will later find out his status, and break the news to Ste on the Channel 4 soap.

Richardson said: “The episode where Ste goes to the clinic is shot in real time. You will see him get up in the morning and make the decision to go to the clinic.

“Everything that happens in the clinic from getting these instant results – they do a prick in your finger and it takes minutes – you see the journey of all of that through the episode. It’s quite harrowing and shocking.

“Speaking to people who have been there and been through it, I wondered if he would break down in tears and think his life was over but they said you get this numb feeling that goes through you and then work out what is the next available option.

“It is going to be eye-opening for people and hopefully they will go and get tested. It’s not a flash in the pan one – there is going to be a positive outcome in the end.”

The long-running storyline will explore his experiences of living with HIV and has been in the pipeline for several months. Producers have worked with the Terrence Higgins Trust to ensure its sensitivity.

It will explore Ste’s relationship with John-Paul McQueen, and will mark the first time a gay character in a British soap has been diagnosed with HIV.

Eastenders character Joe Wallace, played by Jason Rush, was a character who featured briefly in the BBC1 soap, and who lived with HIV in the early 90s.