Here we go; she’s got it – ‘THE AIDS’. Well, she was pronounced HIV positive much to my surprise. I thought the producers were just trying to use a few shock tactics to keep the viewers on their toes. I’m talking about Val the middle aged Geordie woman in the rural soap Emmerdale set in the Yorkshire Dales.

The newspapers and TV critics of course are having a field day.

The Mirror – “Emmerdale’s Charlie Hardwick: HIV can happen to anyone, even funny people like Val Pollard.”

“I hope they will see it could happen to anybody,” says Charlie, “Val is quite funny and we don’t want her to stop being funny. But funny people get HIV as well.”

Do they really? What does H.I.Val (as she’s now calling herself) mean – funny ha ha or funny peculiar! True to say living with HIV can be hivarious – hivsterical even!                                                                                                                                    

“One of the biggest at-risk groups,” states Charlie, “are women in their 50s going into new relationships after divorce. They are no longer worried about pregnancy and think, ‘Get in – we are free to enjoy our sexuality unhindered’. But you can’t have your cake and eat it.”                                                                                                                                

Cake and eat it? Get in? Is this football talk? Talking of which, according to another interview –

“Going for a half-time cuppa at her beloved Newcastle Utd, Emmerdale star Charlie Hardwick stopped in her tracks as a fellow fan shied away and told her not to touch him. Shocked and angry, she quickly gave him a piece of her mind. Just playing a character at risk of the virus, Charlie has been horrified by the ugly prejudice that still surrounds HIV. She has also been targeted for abuse by online trolls and the whole experience has given her a small taste of what real sufferers must face. She recalls: “I had a conversation with one of the fellas I see at football. I said, ‘How are you doing?’ and he went, ‘Woah, woah… don’t touch us. I might catch it!’ I gave him a proper talking to. “I said, ‘You don’t get HIV from touching somebody – you get it from having unprotected sex and that’s not going to happen is it kiddo?’ and he meekly said no.”

Way aye Cushy Butterfield! The critics discuss Val’s ensuing mental journey with interest.

How does Val deal with the HIV positive diagnosis?

“Rather badly, because she thinks, ‘What have I got left? My love life has gone up the spout, so I might as well smoke myself to death, drink myself to death’. That is rather strange really, because that’s normally the scenario for a fella. Val is also lashing out at anything and everything.”
Then we get smart arse TV critic Kevin O’Sullivan writing for the Sunday Mirror.

Emmerdale’s laughably implausible OAP HIV storyline shows Soapland has no connection to the real world.

“Putting it about: Val and Eric in Emmerdale. More turmoil in the village of the dammed as Emmerdale’s comedy character H.I.Val finally behaved like a sentient adult and took the test. Which confirmed all the mad old bat’s worst fears. “HIV positive at my age,” she sobbed. “How is that even possible?” Gosh, Val, I dunno. But I think it might have something to do with sleeping around and unprotected sex.”                                                                                                                              

Why do people insist on prolonging the myth that in order to contract HIV you have to sleep around?

He carries forth, “In real life, of course, no couple would ever recover from this two-pronged catastrophe. If you’ve been affected by Val and Eric’s laughably implausible story… you need to get out a bit more.”              

I’d like to have words with that bloody kevino (that’s what his title looks like if you knock the Sullivan off). In fact I’d like to knock him off, although not in the H.I.Val sense of “GET IN have your cake and eat it! Rather I’d like to knock him off his highfaluting, misinformed perch. He’s the one who needs to get out more and talk to a people who are actually living with HIV. Then he’d find out that their story is not implausible at all but quite a common one.

In fact all those bloody reporters and TV critics should do the same, along with the producers of Emmerdale. Take the episode featuring the support group which was a total fiasco. Val walks into the supposedly confidential support group meeting to be greeted by the group facilitator who is wearing a bright red tee shirt declaring, ‘I am HIV positive.’ Of course we have an eclectic mix of pozzers; the obligatory gay man, the annoyingly optimistic cheerful woman, the up the spout teenager lovingly stroking her bump, the bitter and twisted life’s got it in for me I’ll never get over it type, all sitting in a circle like an A.A. meeting.

“Way aye man, I can’t be doing with this,” declares Cushy Butterfield. I’m going to get on with my life,” and rushes home to shag her long suffering husband Eric who happy to have his H.I.Val back tries to come up with the goods – but can’t. Then there is the awful spine chilling moment when he turns his head away when she tries to kiss him. The first moment of true hiv reality. He can’t deal with it.

Who can?

Well at least I suppose we have to commend ITV for featuring and highlighting issues related to HIV. I really didn’t think they would. I thought they would stop with the test. Anyway, I was wrong. I am forced to eat my words. Might as well, there’s bugger all else to eat in the cupboard. That’s one thing they probably won’t highlight, poverty and the way HIV can wreck other areas of your life such as your career. “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor,” as the saying goes, “and rich is better.” Before my partner died we were what you could call living the high life, but to be honest it got quite boring at times. When you think about it, what could be more exciting than scanning the aisles of Aldi or Lidle hoping to find a bargain? And your bottom doesn’t really need quilted toilet tissue when Asda smart price does the job just as well. You can live without all the makeup and body lotions or to go shopping for new clothes – Oh! the long forgotten joy. I am joking of course – being cynical. HIV can do that to you.

Speaking of lotions and potions I’ve just put a face pack on. It says on the label – warning; looks and smells delicious, but don’t eat – mmmm, feeling a bit peckish – I might have to. I’ve got to leave it on for twenty minutes whilst relaxing (i.e. writing this!) Tick tock tick tock – only ten more minutes to go before I can peel it off. I can’t wait. How exciting. See how thrilling my life has become? Who needs money? Have to say can’t help wishing I could win the lottery though. Tick bloody tock – wish I could turn back the clock and I’ll bet a lot of other ‘funny’ ha ha or funny peculiar people living with HIV wish they could too.



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