A Brief History

Born in September 1962 and raised near Blackpool, Britain’s favourite seaside playground, I knew early on that I was fascinated with music, film, TV and celebrities. 

This passion began me on a journey that resulted in my becoming a prolific entertainment journalist in the 1980s and 1990s. 

However, it was HIV that would eventually present me with my biggest challenges, both personally and professionally.

A career in radio was my first aim, and during my time at the University of Warwick, where I studied for my degree in Film & Literature, I hosted two radio shows a week for the campus radio station, W963, and in 1983 produced a prize-winning music documentary, The History of Rap, for BBC Radio 1's student broadcaster competition.

After graduating in the summer of 1984, my first job was as a disc jockey on the pirate station, Radio Caroline, located on an old trawler, the Ross Revenge, in the English Channel. As Edwin ‘King’, I presented a three-hourly nightly show playing the best of black and soul music. Conditions on the Ross Revenge were difficult, however,  since I was the only openly gay man on the ship, and food and water was in short supply due to the UK blockade of pirate radio supply ships. I lasted three months.

Back on dry land, I settled in London and took up my first journalistic position as staff writer on Black Beat International, a monthly black music magazine from the publisher of The Voice (and later, The Weekly Journal), to which I also contributed. In 1985, I joined the writing staff of The Street Scene, a short-lived weekly black and dance music lifestyle magazine, part of Morgan Khan’s Streetsounds empire.

Going freelance in 1986, I began contributing regularly to popular music weekly Record Mirror, covering soul, dance and pop music; I became their film editor in 1987.

It was here that I wrote my first piece on HIV, 'Does the pop world really care about AIDS?' timed to coincide with the first-ever International AIDS Day on April 3rd 1987.

That was also the year that I became convinced that I was  HIV-positive based on a variety of syptoms; my fears were confirmed a year later with my first HIV antibody test. 

I now suspect that I was actually infected in 1983, based on my memory of several unexplained symptoms that fit the criteria for seroconversion illness. 

Consequently, my diagnosis was not a surprise, but it was still a shock. There were, of course, no treatments at all then, but the stark outlook made me more determined than ever to make the most out of life.

I moved into radio and TV production in 1988; first working as a researcher for Sky Television's music department, then writing and producing a two hour radio documentary about the prolific 'love-em-or-hate-em' music producers Stock, Aitken & Waterman. I also had a weekly slot reviewing the latest film and video releases on Johnny Walker's radio show for British Forces Broadcasting Service (BFBS).

Returning to print journalism full time in 1989, I became freelance TV editor of best-selling pop weekly, Number One; wrote the press and publicity notes for the seminal AIDS fundraiser, Red Hot & Blue; and penned the souvenir brochure for activist pop star Jimmy Somerville's 1991 tour. That year I also helped launch a new youth lifestyle weekly, Rage, as their film & TV editor, as well as contributing regularly to TV Times and TV Guide.

By 1996, however, my health was failing and I decided to move to Vancouver to be with my Canadian partner. Working with an international features syndication agency, I continued to write celebrity-focused pieces between 1996 and 2001, and my articles were published in many languages in magazines and newspapers worldwide.

I attended my first International AIDS Conference that year, too. The news from Vancouver was momentous, ushering in a new era of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), but I had taken the two new classes of drugs too early and my HIV was already resistant to them.

Things were looking grim for the new millennium, having run out of treatment options in 1999, but in March 2000 I began a new, wildly experimental combination and by June 2000 I had literally come back to life. The strain was too much to bear for my relationship, however, and I returned to the UK at the end of 2001 with a new home in Britain's other favourite seaside playground, Brighton, and a new focus: HIV journalism.

I began by freelancing for POZ magazine (US) and Positive Nation magazine (UK), and then began to write regularly for NAM’s esteemed monthly newsletter, AIDS Treatment Update. 

I also contributed news stories for NAM’s website, aidsmap.com, and wrote medical journal summaries for US-based HIV education website, Medscape. In 2003, I edited NAM’s HIV Treatments Training Manual, before becoming editor of AIDS Treatment Update from the October 2003 issue.

In January 2004, I joined NAM's dedicated editorial team where I oversaw the redesign and relaunch of AIDS Treatment Update in 2005; wrote more than 400 original news stories for aidsmap.com; and edited a futher edition of the HIV Treatments Training Manual. 

I used my position as editor of the UK's most respected HIV newsletter to attempt to influence and advocate for all people living with HIV; as a member of the UK Community Advisory Board I acted as the patient representative on the British HIV Association's (BHIVA) HIV Treatment Guidelines (2006) as well as BHIVA's 2008 UK guidelines for the management of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) of people living with HIV infection.

More recently I have contributed to the debate around the criminalisation of HIV non-disclosure, exposure and transmission. In 2007, I wrote and edited my first book on the subject for NAM, Criminal HIV Transmission, a UK-focused resource aimed at educating those working in, and with, the criminal justice system about the issues. The same year, I also was lead author of a briefing paper, HIV Forensics, published by NAM and the National AIDS Trust and established my blog, criminalhivtransmission.blogspot.com.

In 2009, I left the staff of NAM, to work as a consultant for UK and international organisations where I focus on controversial issues at the intersection of public health and human rights, including criminalisation, HIV treatment as HIV prevention, and HIV prevention for people living with HIV.  I have also spoken about these issues at meetings throughout the world. 

In 2010, I launched an international network of advocates working to end criminalisation of non-disclosure, exposure and non-intentional transmission, HIV Action (HIV Anti-CriminalisaTIOn Network).

Now, at 48, healthier than I ever imagined I could ever be (in fact, I didn't ever think I would make it past 40) I am seeking that elusive happy balance between work and life.

When I'm not travelling, I spend my time between Brighton, Berlin and Hamburg where Nick, my German partner of seven years, resides.

© 2008 - 2011 Edwin J Bernard