Zack Hudson (James Farrar) was left devastated when he discovered that he was HIV positive in EastEnders, after sharing needles with newcomer Brett (Fabrizio Santino) in the past.
In upcoming scenes, he will share his fears about his diagnosis with Sam Mitchell (Kim Medcalf), opening up about the deep shame he feels.
He tells her how terrified he is of the stigma surrounding the virus and eventually admits that he has yet to pick up his medication, much to Sam’s fury.
According to Dr Kate Nambiar, Medical Director of the Terrence Higgins Trust, Zack’s reaction is completely normal.
‘Someone like Zack who has just been diagnosed with HIV might feel upset, shocked or angry. They may have trouble taking in the things they’ve been told. But it’s vital to know that you can now live a long, healthy life with HIV.’
However, she would encourage anyone with HIV to begin treatment as soon as possible.
‘It’s recommended that everyone living with HIV starts treatment as soon as possible after being diagnosed. People living with HIV take a combination of drugs which is usually taken in the form of daily pills and, for many, this is just one tablet once a day.
‘The treatment works by stopping the virus from reproducing and reducing the amount of virus in the blood to what is called an ‘undetectable’ level. This means that the virus is still there, but it is in such small amounts that it can’t be passed on to anyone else. It also means that the immune system is protected from the virus, so treatment keeps people living with HIV healthy.
‘It usually takes between 3 and 6 months for someone to become undetectable when they start treatment.’
Will Zack take Sam’s advice and pick up his medication, or will he continue to struggle with his shame?
You can find out answers to common questions, myths and misinformation about HIV and Zack’s story here.
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