EastEnders’ first major HIV storyline in 30 years and a testing turbo charge for A&Es


As 2023 comes to an end, now is the perfect opportunity to reflect on our milestones of the year. Especially because, with just six years left for us to achieve the life-changing goal of ending new HIV cases in the UK by 2030, every year counts.

Over the last 12 months we made huge progress in the fight against HIV and for better sexual health. Our message has been loud and clear - HIV: Time’s Up. Terrence Higgins Trust will do everything we can to end the HIV epidemic within the UK by the end of the decade. While Richard Angell stepped up as our new Chief Executive back in March.

Here’s just some of what we were up to in 2023.

EastEnders' landmark HIV storyline 


In January, we were proud to announce our work with BBC’s EastEnders on a landmark HIV storyline with Zack Hudson (played by James Farrar) to show that an HIV diagnosis doesn’t have to stop you from living life to the fullest. The storyline came over 30 years after our charity advised on Mark Fowler’s HIV diagnosis in 1991 when he was the first mainstream British TV character to be diagnosed with HIV

Zack’s storyline raised awareness of the reality of HIV in 2023 and sparked conversations in living rooms across the UK.  His HIV diagnosis scene led to a jump in viewers wanting to know about HIV - we saw a 75% increase in website traffic after the episode aired. The most popular pages were how HIV is transmitted, stages of HIV infection, symptoms of HIV and post-exposure prophylaxis.

Lord Alan Sugar faced criticism for tweeting about the storyline and spreading misinformation about vertical HIV transmission to his 5.2 million followers, but we quickly corrected this and stated the facts on HIV, which reached 150,000 people.


Zack’s story hit a milestone in August when he found out his HIV was undetectable, meaning he Can’t Pass It On to his partner Whitney (Played by Shona McGarty) and that they are able to try for a baby. To mark the moment, we released new data which showed the British public’s HIV awareness is still suck in the 1980s – with only 36% of people knowing that someone living with HIV and on effective treatment can’t pass it on. Millions of viewers saw Zack being told his HIV is "undetectable", helping to raise awareness and show how much HIV has changed since Mark Fowler’s diagnosis.
We’re grateful for the continued support from James Farrar who extensively researched HIV as part of the role and has continued to amplify the facts on HIV and our charity’s work.

National HIV Testing Week returns with a new look 


National HIV Testing Week was back with a new look for 2023! In February, we called on people across the country to get tested and know their status – because HIV can affect anyone. ‘I Test’ explored people’s different reasons for testing - whether it’s to help you live your life, whatever the result, or to be part of the generation that stops HIV. For the first time ever, we made free self-tests available to people across England which provides a result in just minutes. It’s like to a COVID lateral flow test, except with a few drops of blood from your fingers. During the week, over 22,400 HIV testing kits were ordered by people across England (12,001 self-sampling and 10,452 self-testing).
The lived experience of people living with HIV was at the heart of our media coverage, including working with our amazing Positive Voices speaker Ellie Harrison and BBC News and BBC Newsbeat. She discussed being diagnosed after taking an at-home HIV test, which reached millions. The website where you order a test had 3,534 visits linked from the BBC Newsbeat and BBC News coverage, resulting in nearly 1,300 test orders on the back of that article.

I Test
Our National HIV Testing Week campaign was revamped for 2023.

We worked with influencers, celebrities and MPs to produce videos which championed HIV testing, sending out HIV self-tests for them to share on social media.

Richard Angell appointed as Chief Executive


In March, Richard Angell was appointed as Chief Executive of Terrence Higgins Trust by our Board of Trustees.
In Richard’s short time as Chief Executive, Terrence Higgins Trust has already achieved so much… keep reading to find out more on this! But just to name a few things:

Richard oversaw the Fighting HIV Stigma and Proud March in partnership with 30 other HIV organisations. Thousands of people took to the streets of London for a march, vigil and rally to challenge HIV stigma. The day of action was to fight stigma and raise awareness of the reality of HIV today – loudly and proudly shouting that people on effective HIV treatment Can’t Pass It On. Richard spoke powerfully to attendees, paying tribute to our forbearers – 'We thank the doctors, nurses, buddies, friends, grieving partners and every single person who’s worked for and volunteered for our organisations that are gathered here today. We could not have done it without them.'


Richard has been vital spokesperson for our charity, promoting the life-changing work of our charity in countless media interviews and articles. He spoke to almost every TV news outlet in Scotland on our work with the Scottish Government to end HIV stigma (more on this shortly!) – starting with BBC Scotland News in the morning and ending on BBC Scotland’s The Nine on the night.
To mark World AIDS Day, Richard wrote a powerful piece for Big Issue on the important role of opt-out HIV testing in ending HIV transmissions by 2030, and why it’s a game-changer in reducing health inequalities.

First TV advert on HIV since 1987


A key moment of the year was our partnership with the Scottish Government. Stigma Is More Harmful than HIV provided a much-needed update on the huge medical progress in the fight against HIV, as well as highlighting the abhorrent stigma which remains. Our powerful message was shared on TV, billboards, newspapers and online.

An outoodr digital billboard next to a house showing our anti-stigma messaging.
Our anti-stigma messaging was seen on billboards.

As part of this, we launched the first major TV advert on HIV since the UK Government’s ‘Don’t Die of Ignorance’ campaign featuring tombstones almost 40 years ago. Long after they first aired in 1987, the harrowing tombstone adverts have continued to impact public attitudes towards HIV. Although they saved lives at the time, they terrified a generation about HIV – which is why an update on HIV was long overdue. In 1987 the advert’s message was ‘it’s a deadly disease and there’s no known cure’, while our new advert explains how an HIV diagnosis has transformed with ‘you can live a healthy, happy life just like anyone else’, but stigma continues to have a devastating impact.
The advert was played on STV’s network over 70 times, changing the hearts of minds of those who remember the tombstones and bringing a true-to-life portrayal of HIV to a younger generation.


The work was mentioned in Scottish parliament by Claire Haughey MSP, with First Minister Humza Yousaf affirming that he is 'absolutely committed to eliminating HIV transmission in Scotland by 2030.'

Opt-out HIV testing expanded to 33 new areas


For World AIDS Day, the UK Government announced the expansion of opt-out HIV testing in A&Es to 46 more hospitals across England where HIV is high prevalence. This was the result of relentless campaigning from Terrence Higgins Trust as well as other HIV and hepatitis organisations and politicians who could see the life-changing impact of this approach to expanding HIV testing.

Millions more people will now be tested for HIV when they go to their local A&E. This substantial new funding for two million more HIV tests will double the number of HIV tests done in England every year.
On World AIDS Day 2021, the Government announced £20 million to expand opt-out HIV testing to areas of very high HIV prevalence - London, Brighton, Manchester and Blackpool. We and our supporters with National Aids Trust and Elton John Aids Foundation, and the wider HIV sector were key to this decision. In the last 18 months, opt-out HIV testing has found thousands of people unaware that they were living with HIV, hep B and C in London, Brighton, Manchester and Blackpool. It’s saved and changed lives, diagnosing people at a speed and on a scale not seen. The expansion of opt-out HIV has taken us one step closer to ending HIV transmissions by 2030. 

Other highlights


Terry Portrait 

We collaborated with the National Portrait Gallery and artist Curtis Holder on a portrait of Terry Higgins, one of the first people in the UK to die of an AIDS-related illness. Terry Higgins - Three Ages of Terry was released to mark what would have been his 78th birthday. Visit the National Portrait Gallery to see it. 

We honoured Terry Higgins with a Memorial Quilt

In summer, we revealed the Terry Higgins Memorial Quilt in all its glory. The creation of the quilt was overseen by the charity’s co-founders Rupert Whitaker (who was Terry’s partner) and Martyn Butler, as well as Terry’s close friends Linda Payan and Maxine Saunders, who worked closely with talented quilters from across the UK.

It's available now on display to the public for the very first time at Sheffield’s Millennium Gallery. Visitors will get to know Terry better than ever before through each of the eight panels celebrating different aspects of him, including as a Welshman, gay man and his time in the Royal Navy. The quilt also celebrates how much progress has been made because of people like our-founders who acted during the dark days of the epidemic while others buried their head in the sand. 

Terrence Higgins Trust celebrated Black History Month

We heard from our Business Development Co-Ordinator, Bridget Kachidza and our Community Health Engagement Officer, Shamiso Zhanje, on what this year’s theme ‘Saluting Our Sisters’ means to them.

Our staff also took part in Saluting Our Sisters workshops with Alicia Richardson from Black Create Connect. She delved into the stories of trailblazing Black women whose historical impact and resilience have shaped the world we live in today as well as highlighting the importance of recognising misogynoir, how it manifests and relationship building as allies.

We launched a new service in Essex

In April, we started our brand new Essex service which offers NHS funded sexual health services across the county. It’s delivered by a number of partners including Provide Community. They are committed to ensuring everyone receives empathetic, appropriate and effective advice and care.

Iceland boss apologises for HIV misinformation

Following calls and letters from Terrence Higgins Trust and National AIDS Trust, the boss of Iceland Richard Walker apologised and retracted a claim he had made in Mail Online that three staff contracted HIV as a result of needle attacks.

How HIV is discussed in media has a huge impact on public perceptions – we will always call it out.

We reacted to the latest UKHSA STI data

STIs in the UK are at an all-time high - UKHSA’s latest stats showed that there’s been a 24% rise in cases on the previous year. On average, more than 1,000 STIs are being diagnosed each day in England. This cannot continue, we’ve seen cuts where we need to see funding. That’s why we urged the Government to come up with a long-term plan for turning this around. As our Chief Executive, Richard Angell said, “If this were any other set of health conditions, there would be outcry and we’d see rapid action and much needed funding.

Our charity shop Boutique raised £1,000,000

We were delighted to announce that our charity shop Boutique raised £1,000,000 for our life-changing work since it opened almost two decades ago, with Kylie Minogue and Stephen Fry donating items to help us mark this important milestone. Terrence Higgins Trust hosted a party at the shop where our Chief Executive, Richard Angell, presented volunteers with a commemorative plaque.

Mystery shopper research reveals half denied sexual health appointment 

Our Mystery Shopper research revealed the difficulty accessing sexual health services in England, Scotland and Wales, while gonorrhoea and syphilis are at record high levels. The report shone a light on the barriers which exist when trying to take charge of your sexual health. It also includes clear recommendations for urgent improvement.  

We marked International Women’s Day 

To mark International Women’s Day, we shared the experience of mum of two, Emma McNally, who is living with HIV to show other women living with HIV know they are not alone. As well as this, we shared poetry from members of Common Bond, our monthly support group for women living with HIV on social media. 


BBC Three’s I Kissed A Boy cast joins London Pride march

We marched in front of 1.5 million people at Pride In London alongside the cast of BBC Three’s I Kissed A Boy with a loud and clear message – together we can end new HIV cases in the UK by 2030. 

Celebrating the African contribution to the UK HIV response

We were so proud to support the production of Our Stories Told By Us — a first of its kind book which celebrates the invaluable contributions of Africans living with HIV in the UK. Inspiration for the book came from commemorations of the 40th anniversary of the first HIV cases in the UK. It is a well-documented fact that African communities are one of the groups most affected groups by HIV in the UK, but their voices and experiences have historically been underrepresented. Buy now

Bring on 2024

Next year is already shaping up to be a busy one for us. We’re looking forward to National HIV Testing Week, which kicks off on Monday 5 February to shout about how quick, easy and convenient HIV testing now is, as well as the roll out of opt-out HIV testing to new areas. 

The deadline of 2030 is getting closer and closer. There is just one parliament left to end the epidemic and we hope that the political parties see this unmissable opportunity in front of them. This is what we are calling on the next government to do:
We want to see action on PrEP access, because there are people at the moment who could benefit from it which either can’t get it or don’t know it exists. PrEP isn’t available in community pharmacies or GPs in England – let alone online as it should be – and we’ll continue to hold the Government’s feet to fire on this.

And crucially, in 2024 we will strive to make sexual and reproductive health the national priority it should be. Because right now our clinics are under strain – getting contraception, testing and treatment – an important part of looking after your sexual and reproductive health – is far too difficult for many people. We’ve been waiting years for the government’s sexual and reproductive health action plan and the latest STI data and our Mystery Shopper report must be a wake up call.

We will always be here until the last person living with HIV needs us. Thank you for your support and please stick with us in years ahead as we work to make the historic goal of ending new cases of HIV tin the UK by 2030 a reality.