Martin Burns
Writer & HIV Activist

My Mission

Since being breached out into the world, I have been the other. And the other has always been feared. Since that breach, I’ve been fighting for acceptance, whether it’s as a proud gay man or an individual living with HIV.

My goal in life is to make ‘the other’ an extinct species. We are all an other, but that’s an inclusive term whereas the other implies exclusion from the whole. Language is important and the value of this idea is important, two ideas that perfectly summarise the union of my writing and my activism.

I’ve always written about the whole, the interconnectedness, the gestalt; the very thing I believe in. We are individuals within a macro-organism.

If I am as simple and authentic as I can be, I will bring more love into the world through my own honest growth. It’s a purpose of positivity that I have, pun intended, but my purpose is also quite mischievous.

I don’t believe in walking on eggshells. I will call something out if it needs to be. I am a purveyor in forgiveness but an activist will never forget. That’s not in my remit.

I’ve been known to say that I should come with a warning because my mission will make people feel uncomfortable, but sometimes that’s necessary. To quote the historian Fernández-Armesto: “We need to feel badly about ourselves if we are going to make ourselves better.” The dark should not be ignored but learnt from.

I associate myself with gold. Molten metal burns, but the I am a Burns. This is my mischief, just as the modus operandi of my writing is mischievous.

My Work

Where do you want to go?

A portfolio of my exploration of life through the written word, encompassing prose (short stories), plays (full-length and short) and scripts (my POC adaptation of ‘Dr Faustus’).


Discover the work I do as an HIV Awareness activist, inspired by my own AIDS diagnosis in 2007. Includes the ‘We Are Still Here’ project.

I am not a template

An introduction to my N/F novel which follows my journey as a man living with HIV and what that means in modern times. A story of survival but, more importantly, hope.

The Perpendicular Tree

Welcome to the world of my children’s book! Imagine the story of The Ugly Duckling as told through the experiences of a tree. As well as not knowing his place in the world, that very world of his is also falling apart.

About me

I am a writer, HIV/AIDS activist and equality advocate who was born in Shakespeare’s County, where words are in the very water. My studies were continued at Bournemouth University where I gained a BA Hons in Scriptwriting for Film & TV. My preferred genre was always fiction and the investigation into this continued until I was given an AIDS diagnosis in 2007. With it, I found my true voice. I had a tribe to write for, especially those too scared to speak out thanks to the persistent and insidious stigmas and misinformation that help keep anachronistic prejudices alive.

I work freelance for HIV charities, such as The Brigstowe Project, for whom I was a keynote speaker in 2019’s World AIDS Day. I have been involved in Awareness campaigns for the likes of The Terrence Higgins’ Trust, Green Carnation Theatre Company, Tribe of Lambs and The Independent Girls, as well as part of Brigstowe’s national U=U Campaign. I have also been featured in The Bristol Post.

My activism informs much of my written work, too. Last year I had a short play entitled ‘Ghost’s Alive’ performed for an online festival to raise funds for The Globe in London. At the end of 2020, I became part of a research team awarded a grant from the University of Bristol’s Brigstow Institute and the Bristol Photo Festival to set up a sustainable investigation into the mental wellbeing of the HIV/AIDS community and how it’s influenced by the curation of their own living spaces, entitled ‘We Are Still Here’.

I am currently completing my N/F novel about the truth of living with HIV in 2021. An AIDS diagnosis was once thought a death sentence, but since surviving this and moving beyond also being HIV+, I now label myself as HIV-neutral, as the virus no longer has any transmittable power, not once it’s controlled by medication. I also hate an acronym, so I vowed to change HIV into ‘hope-is-viral’. Hope can be spread through both art and communicating openly about subjects that were once taboo, which is why I’m still writing and talking about them.

Martin Burns
Martin Burns
Writer & HIV Activist

My Writing

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