Who is Mark Fowler in EastEnders and what was his HIV and AIDs story?

Mark Fowler (Todd Carty) receives a mention in EastEnders this week, as Martin (James Bye) and Sharon Watts (Letitia Dean) fondly reminisce about him on the night before his birthday.

The character would’ve been 55.

Mark, who was played by two different actors during his several stints in the BBC One soap, was introduced during the very first episode and featured in numerous storylines over the years.

He was the first mainstream soap character to be diagnosed with HIV, receiving his diagnosis back in 1991.

With Mark the subject of conversation during Wednesday’s (February 1) edition of the popular serial drama, we’re taking a look back at his time on the Square.

So, if you’re in need of a refresher on all-things Mark Fowler, then you’ve come to the right place.

Who was Mark Fowler in EastEnders?

Mark Fowler was the eldest son of Pauline and Arthur Fowler (Wendy Richard and Bill Treacher), who were also parents to Michelle (Susan Tully) and Martin.

The character made his debut during EastEnders’ first ever episode with David Scarboro in the role.

Mark often got into trouble during his teenage years, with his alliance with Nick Cotton (John Altman) largely to blame, and he even wound up a suspect in the murder of Reg Cox.

Pauline and Arthur were at their wits end with him, but when he ran away from home, they were devastated. After months of searching, they eventually located him at Southend-On-Sea, where he was living with an older woman and her two kids.

Eventually, the couple broke up.

Mark returned home on a few occasions after this, before departing in 1987, shortly after finding out that Den Watts (Leslie Grantham) was the father of Michelle’s baby, Vicky.

In 1990, Mark returned to the Square on a more permanent basis – this time, with Todd Carty in the role. The character was more mature this time around, having evidently outgrown his rebellious streak.

What happened to Mark Fowler in EastEnders?

Mark was diagnosed with HIV prior to his on-screen return, something which he kept to himself at first, before ultimately confiding in Diane Butcher (Sophie Lawrence), who he’d grown close to.

After a year to process his diagnosis, he revealed that he was HIV-positive to Pauline and Arthur during one of EastEnders’ most-watched episodes ever, which aired on Boxing Day 1991.

Pauline was heartbroken, while Arthur was more hostile, but he ultimately saw sense and proved supportive towards Mark.

EastEnders worked with the Terrence Higgins Trust on the storyline, which received acclaim for raising awareness and educating people at a time when there were a lot of misconceptions about HIV and AIDS.

Mark, meanwhile, remained on the Square for another 12 more years, and married three times. His first wife, Gill, was an ex-girlfriend of his.

Gill died on their honeymoon from AIDS-related non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

In 1994, he married Ruth Aitken – who would later leave him for his cousin Conor Flaherty – before tying the knot with Lisa Shaw in 2002.

Mark was told by a doctor in 2003 that his body was rejecting the AIDS medication, and therefore he resolved to leave Walford for good. The last he was seen on screen was when he was riding out of Albert Square on his motorbike.

In April of 2004, Martin (played by James Alexandrou at the time) received a phone call, notifying him that Mark had died of AIDS-related non-hodgkin’s lymphoma.

EastEnders airs Mondays to Thursdays at 7:30pm on BBC One.

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