It’s A Sin actor Olly Alexander has urged people to get an HIV test as he hailed “amazing progress” since the Aids epidemic during which the hit programme is set.
Alexander, previously best known as the singer from pop group Years & Years, said the experience of portraying Ritchie Tozier in the show had alerted him to the “privilege” of the better testing and healthcare now available.
The Channel 4 series, created by Queer As Folk writer Russell T Davies, focuses on three 18-year-olds who move in together in 1981.
It has been praised for its candid view of the impact of the disease on the young men’s lives over the course of a decade.
“There are a couple of similarities between me and Ritchie but one really big difference is he is living in the 1980s in London as more and more people around him start to get sick and die,” Alexander said in a video message posted on Twitter.
“There has been amazing progress in the fight against this virus, thanks to the early activists who fought for research, for funding, for humanity,” he said, likening these to characters in the show such as Jill Baxter, played by Lydia West, and Ash Mukherjee (Nathaniel Curtis).
Nathaniel J Hall, who features in the show as Donald, has spoken about his own experience of HIV after he contracted the virus aged 16.
“I was given a life expectancy of around 37 to 40 years. To hear that at such a young age was very difficult,” he told Sky News.
In the video, Alexander referenced medical advancements such as PrEP, a medication that reduces the risk of catching HIV, as well as effective treatment to prevent those who do test positive from transmitting the virus or getting ill.
He added that “unlike in 1985, it’s now super, super easy to order an HIV test”.
“You can do it online, you can do it at home and get the results really quickly. Let’s celebrate this amazing progress by taking a test and knowing our status.”
Free HIV testing kits can be found via the Terrence Higgins Trust at www.startswithme.org.uk.