Hollyoaks star Peter McPherson moved to tears as he opens up about living with HIV

Hollyoaks star Peter McPherson has opened up publicly about living with HIV in an emotional interview.

McPherson recently portrayed Gareth in the long-running Channel 4 soap during its conversion therapy storyline centred around Lucas Hay (Oscar Curtis), and opened up about his HIV status during an interview on Virgin Radio Pride (June 20).

Appearing on the pop up station opposite Graeme Smith, HIV expert Susan Cole and alongside his husband David Allwood, McPherson recounted his diagnosis, and his journey in an emotional interview.

McPherson said that he was HIV positive when he and Allwood met in 2013 – but that Allwood was edcuated and informed enough that his status wasn’t a barrier to their relationship.

“We were in Singapore at the time and, because I was always told it’s really important when you have a sexual partner that you tell them…

“When I was first diagnosed there was two camps, there was people on treatment straight away and then there was delayed treatment because they didn’t know how it would affect in the long term.

“So, I was delayed but, yeah, I told you straight away and I was gobsmacked by David because he knew his stuff and he wasn’t phased by it and that just put me at ease straight away.”

Speaking about his actual diagnosis, McPherson emotionally recounted falling ill with flu-like symptoms, before going into hospital, and having tests run on.

“I got really ill. And it’s what they call seroconversion when your body takes on the virus. And I didn’t know what it was,” he explained. “Some people get nothing. Some people get like a cold. Mine was like flu. And to the point where I was so sick, I ended in hospital.

“They did all these tests and they couldn’t find anything. And they said, ‘You’re a gay man. Have you been having unprotected sex?’ And I said, ‘Yes.’ And they said, ‘Okay, we’ve booked you into the sexual health clinic here in the hospital. We’re going to check you out. Go straight there. They’ll be expecting you and they’ll do the test.’”

The Hollyoaks actor then went home instead of the clinic – but after Googling symptoms of HIV, called a helpline and was driven to a clinic for a rapid test by his father.

When he got the results back as positive, McPherson recounted, “The first thing [my dad] said was, ‘How long has he got left to live?’ The lucky thing is that I was surrounded by medical professional people – the people who could explain, people who could tell him what was going to happen. They put him at ease.

“They were really, really great. Like, ‘No, it doesn’t, it’s not like that anymore. You know, he’s not going to die. He’s going to live a long, healthy life.’ And then we went to the hospital straight after, did more tests there. And then when I got home, I had to break the news to my mum.

“So in one way, I’m really fortunate that my parents and my family have always known from day one. I’ve never had to keep a secret from them. They’ve always, you know, supportive. Every time I get tested, like I got tested last week, got my results and I’m like, I’m still undetectable. My kidney and all this is, you know, great.”

While Allwood takes PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) – a drug available on the NHS that stops its users contracting HIV when taken correctly – McPherson’s HIV medication (Delstrigo) lowers the levels of virus in his bloodstream to undetectable levels.

Anyone with undetectable levels of HIV in their blood becomes ‘untransmittable’, which means they cannot pass the virus on.

Unfortunately, not everyone is as informed as McPherson and his husband, with the former relaying that he’d received some horrendous messages on apps like Grindr.

 “I’ve had messages, people saying things like, “Such a shame you spoilt yourself, you’ve ruined yourself.” Luckily I’m quite strong-willed and in a good place mentally, but that can be very damaging to someone who’s not,” he said.

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