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Bryyan Jackson: From Infant Victim to Teen AIDS Activist

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Brryan Brryan Jackson, now 18 years old, was infected with the HIV virus as a baby. But unlike the late renowned HIV-positive activist Ryan White, Jackson didn’t catch it from an infected blood transfusion. And, unlike so many children in Africa, he didn’t catch the virus from his mother in utero. His story is far worse.When Jackson was an infant, only 11 months old, he was hospitalized because of a bad asthma attack. His parents were enstranged, and his father had never taken much interest in the baby. But during that hospital stay, Jackson’s father came to visit the child, telling Jackson’s mother to go and get a bite to eat while he sat with his son. While she was gone, Jackson’s father, who worked as a phlebotomist drawing blood from patients, pricked his son with a needle filled with HIV-infected blood, passing the virus on to the child.It’s hard to even contemplate such an unspeakably cruel act—but despite this childhood trauma, Jackson has survived to become an activist and inspiration for other HIV positive youths. "I expect to break the barriers between what people think this virus is, and what it really is," he told USA Today. "I hope to eliminate a lot of ignorance and change people's minds."Despite being hospitalized during his childhood for long stretches of time, Jackson recently graduated from his St. Louis high school, and plans to attend college eventually. He’s already accomplished far more than the average teenager, though: He recently founded a nonprofit group, Hope is Vital, which works to raise awareness of AIDS and to stop discrimination against those with the HIV virus, and has helped to organize benefit concerts for the nonprofit in his area.Bryan is also working as a speaker with another group, Project Kindle, which sponsors summer camps for HIV-infected children. He helps them to deal with the realities of their illness and offers them his support and experience. When a girl attending a camp session several years ago broke down in tears, Jackson was there to comfort her. "He said he can be her voice, until she's ready," Project Kindle’s founder, Eva Payne, said.Most remarkably, though, Jackson has forgiven his father, who is now serving a life sentence in prison for the horrible crime he committed against his son."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."
How you can help: Bryyan Jackson's new nonprofit is not equipped to accept online donations yet, but you can still support this brave teenager and his cause by making a donation to his other favorite organization, Project Kindle. A donation to another AIDS-related group, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, will help to support innovative treatment for young children who are infected with the HIV virus.
By Kathryn Hawkins

Read the whole story at Razoo

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