Emmerdale actress Charlie Hardwick has said she was "staggered" when presented with her current storyline, which sees her character, Val Pollard, facing the prospect of being HIV positive.

Warning: spoiler alert!

In the episode on Tuesday February 18, Val receives the news that she is in fact HIV positive.

In an interview with Total TV Guide, Hardwick said of the storyline: "I was staggered, mainly because of Val's role in the show as a kind of fiendish comedy character. But I knew that it wasn't going to be treated as a sensationalist or throwaway plot, but with the upmost dignity and respect."

Hardwick said that "battling ignorance and teaching our dear population at large" is her primary objective.

"I want people to realise that being HIV positive isn't the death sentence it once seemed. With the treatments available now people can lead completely happy, healthy lives," she said.

She added: "But even more importantly, don't have unprotected sex. Whatever your age. Even if you're too old to get pregnant, you're not too old to catch something. If you're going to have sex, you've got to get some latex involved."