When Brryan Jackson was 11 months old, his father injected him with HIV positive blood. His father allegedly believed that, if he killed the child quietly, he could get out of paying child support.
Brryan had a difficult childhood and was constantly getting sick. Finally, at age five, HIV had become full-blown AIDS, and doctors diagnosed the real problem. When doctors could not figure out where the previously healthy child had contracted the virus, suspicion turned to his father, Brian Stewart.
Brryan was given months to live, according to his mother, Jennifer. Brryan took 23 pills, two IV medications, and two injections daily just to stay alive.
“I went from being a playful, happy, energetic five-year-old to this bloated, feverish sick kid,” Brryan said.
“Just because I can’t hear does not mean I don’t have a voice,” Brryan said. “God has blessed me to have such a strong voice, to have a story.”
Brryan’s mother, Jennifer Jackson, and his father, Brian Stewart, were together for about two years, off and on, in the early 1990s. After Jackson became pregnant and had the child, Stewart denied he was the father. Paternity tests suggested otherwise.
When Brryan was hospitalized as an infant, his father took action. Stewart worked at a St. Louis hospital as a phlebotomist. Jennifer Jackson recalls Stewart coming to Brryan’s hospital room during that 1992 stay and suggested she go get a bite to eat.
Prosecutors said he had a syringe filled with HIV-tainted blood tucked inside his lab coat. They said he waited until he was alone with the boy and injected him.
Although there were no witnesses, Jackson and others testified in the 1998 trial that Stewart had access to tainted blood and “previously had threatened to use it as a weapon.”
Stewart was convicted of first-degree assault and received the maximum sentence, life in prison. At sentencing, Judge Ellsworth Cundiff said he was in the same category as “the worst war criminal.” Judge Cundiff added, “I believe when God finally calls you, you are going to burn in hell from here to eternity.”
Brryan has never spoken with his father, but, when the teen won ABC News’ Person of the Week, he said he has forgiven the man who tried to kill him. “God wants us to forgive people,” he said. “Am I going to make myself as low as he is? … I’ve got to be the better person.”
Brryan admits that life with AIDS has been difficult. When he was a child, he was often asked not to use public drinking fountains and was excluded from classmate’s birthday parties. The reaction for others gives him purpose:
“I expect to break the barriers between what people think this virus is, and what it really is. I hope to eliminate a lot of ignorance and change people’s minds.”
Kendra Sontag, a high school friend of Brryan’s, said Bryyan will often show up at her door to make sure she’s all right. His attitude has made a difference in her life, she said.
“He could be mad forever but he chooses to forgive, because that’s what God would do,” she said.
Doctors believe Brryan’s recovery is nothing short of a miracle after scans have found the virus has been undetectable in Brryan’s blood for two straight years now.
“My muscles are actually building, they aren’t breaking down,” explained Brryan. “My doctors are amazed.”
Brryan now volunteers at camps for kids with HIV/AIDS and frequently speaks publicly about his story.
Watch Brryan’s latest interview below: