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Lord Sugar is wrong about HIV – here’s why



Lord Alan Sugar faced criticisms last week for tweeting misinformation about HIV to his 5.2 million followers.


He shared his views on EastEnders’ new major HIV storyline, which Terrence Higgins Trust has been working closely with the BBC on to ensure it accurately reflects the reality of HIV in 2023. The storyline sees Zack Hudson (played by James Farrar) test positive for HIV and will highlight how much HIV has changed 30 years after the soap’s storyline with Mark Fowler in 1991.


Mark was the first mainstream British soap character to be diagnosed with HIV. Terrence Higgins Trust worked with the BBC on Mark’s story during the height of the HIV epidemic to communicate life-saving information to living rooms across the UK. We’re proud to be working with them again on Zack’s story to tackle the myths about HIV that are still held by far too many people – including Lord Sugar.


Zack’s HIV diagnosis on Monday night’s EastEnders has left viewers worried about what will happen to his on-and-off girlfriend Whitney (played by Shona McGarty) and their unborn baby, with Lord Sugar tweeting that if Zack tests positive for HIV, Whitney may have to terminate her pregnancy.



This is completely wrong – children born with HIV grow up and live healthy and fulfilling lives across the globe thanks to treatment. Our charity works with incredible people who were born with HIV who have gone on to have children who are HIV negative.


Every pregnant person in the UK is offered an HIV test to reduce the number of babes born with the virus. If someone discovers they are HIV positive during pregnancy, they’ll go onto treatment straight away to prevent the baby from contracting HIV. Thanks to antenatal HIV screenings and the amazing developments we’ve made in HIV treatment, it’s incredibly rare that babies are born with HIV in the UK. Only 0.7% of all new HIV diagnoses in the UK in 2021 were from vertical transmissions (GOV UK).


Many people’s views on HIV – like Lord Sugar’s – are still based on outdated information. Comments like his spread misinformation about HIV and also perpetuate HIV-related discrimination and stigma. They also show just how important EastEnders’ new HIV storyline is. As Zack’s story unfolds, millions will learn about how much medical progress has been made in the fight against HIV. Including that people living with HIV can and do have children who are HIV-negative (even when diagnosed during pregnancy).


I’d love to have a conversation with Lord Sugar to make sure he has up-to-date information on HIV, because he’s in the unique position to use his huge platform to get the facts on HIV out to people.


Zack’s storyline couldn’t have come at a better time as National HIV Testing Week starts on Monday 6 February. Testing for HIV is now quick and easy. You can do it at home by ordering a free test kit now from startswithme.org.uk which will be posted through your door in plain packaging.


If you have any questions, you can contact Terrence Higgins Trust in confidence via 0808 802 1221 or tht.org.uk/thtdirect.


Ian Green is the CEO of Terrence Higgins Trust, the UK’s leading HIV and sexual health charity.

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