One of the UK’s most cutting edge TV soaps, Hollyoaks, is to tackle the rising numbers of gay men who are newly infected by HIV.

Keiron Richardson is set to make history when his character, Ste Hay, on Hollyoaks becomes the first HIV positive gay man in a British soap, in an attempt by the production company to tackle sexual health issues in gay men.

On Monday new figures from PHE (Public Health England) revealed that new HIV infections amongst MSM (men who have sex with men) continue to buck the downward infection trend.

Shockingly nine gay or bisexual men are infected with HIV everyday in the United Kingdom.

Will Harris, Head of Media at Terrence Higgins Trust, said, ‘We always say that a well-researched, well-told storyline in a national soap is worth any number of health campaigns, especially for a stigmatised condition like HIV. It’s important because currently whole generations of young gay men are entering adulthood without the confidence they need to negotiate healthy sex and relationships.’

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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.’

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This isn’t the first time that Hollyoaks have reached out to gay audiences with hard hitting storylines. In January the programme in its 19th year wrote about male rape in a crueling storyline which saw John Paul McQueen assaulted by Finn O’Connor.

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