Scroll To Top

Brryan Jackson is #26 of 75 Most Amazing HIV-Positive People of 2016

Brryan Jackson is #26 of 75 Most Amazing HIV-Positive People of 2016

Brryan Jackson
Bailey E. Kinney

He wasn't expected to survive childhood. Now he's a world record breaking activist.

Brryan Jackson was only 6 when he was given up for dead. Literally. When the little boy who’d been losing a battle with AIDS complications flatlined — technically dying before being resuscitated — a second time, doctors told his mother the only merciful thing to do was to let him go if he died again.

Jackson’s mother resigned herself to the fact that she had lost her son. She prepared for his funeral, and set out the outfit she would bury him in. It was a little white suit she’d chosen so he’d look his best.

She never had to use it.

Not a day has gone by since that Brryan Jackson’s life hasn’t been miraculous. Defying all odds and consistently proving doctors wrong, Jackson not only pulled through and lived, he’s grown into a remarkable 25-year-old advocate.

“The fact that I get to tell my story and inspire others as a career is a dream come true,” Jackson says in an interview with Plus. “I would love to be able to give people hope and inspiration through my story as I continue to speak internationally.”

He is inspirational; and I haven't even gotten to the really miraculous part of Jackson’s story; or for that matter, the most heartbreaking.

He was diagnosed with AIDS at 5. But he hadn’t been born with HIV, his mom wasn’t positive, and he wasn’t a hemophiliac. It was a medical mystery. “Because I wasn't at risk for exposure to the virus, an investigation was launched to discover how I became infected,” Jackson explains to Plus. “Details began to emerge that pointed toward my estranged father.”

According to court documents, when the un-married couple split, Brian Thomas Stewart, told his son’s mother, “You won’t need to look me up for child support anyway, because your son is not going to live that long.”

In fact, evidence suggests, that Stewart set out to make that prediction come true. “He purposefully injected me with HIV-tainted blood," Jackson says. "He was working as a phlebotomist [and] he injected me during a hospital visit for my asthma when I was only 11-months-old. The motive? He wanted to avoid paying child support.”

Jackson, who was named after the man, altered his own name to separate himself from the monster, who, would rather doom his infant son than pay child support. "I was born Brian Thomas Stewart-Jackson, Jr, named after my father," Jackson explains. "I legally changed my name to Brryan Jeffery Ray Jackson. Jackson is my mothers last name." 

Although HIV can be a manageable chronic disease, the unusual mode of transmission meant that Jackson’s HIV wasn’t diagnosed until it had already progressed to AIDS. As GQ reported, a seven-year-old Jackson suffered through fevers, chronic ear infections, fungus growing under his fingernails, a swollen liver, and an immune system too weakened to fight his ailments. He took 23 pills a day.  But, despite his father’s prophecy (“I just know your son is not going to see the age of five”), Jackson survived.

In 1998 Stewart was sentenced to life in prison *with the possibility of parole) for assault.  And the real miracle? The son who has permanently lost 80 percent of his hearing and couldn’t be blamed for wishing ill on his father, instead told the Daily Mail, “I think there is salvation for everyone, and I find myself praying for his.”

At 25, Jackson isn’t a typical young man. What most people might have seen as impossible odds, he chose to see the light at the end of the tunnel— “I’d rather be funny than serious any day,” he said to Medical Daily. “Life’s about having fun, having adventures. If you make a couple jokes about being a bastard child, or not having a father growing up, or being hard of hearing, or being HIV-positive, do it. Let me make fun of myself so people don’t make fun of me.”

He elaborates, telling Plus, “HIV has had more of an impact on my life than just the physical symptoms of the virus. The lack of education and understanding of HIV/AIDS led to a lot of discrimination for me. The bullying and ignorance that I faced is why I'm so passionate about doing my part to do away with stigma.” 

Today, Jackson shares his story across St. Louis (which he calls home) and around the world. On his 18th birthday, he created a nonprofit organization called Hope is Vital. In his blog, he describes the organization as a “catalyst for hope by inspiring others to overcome adversity and become empowered to make a difference in their own lives and the lives of others.”

Spreading HIV awareness and education is not only Jackson’s passion, it’s also his life’s work. Since being invited to speak before Congress about HIV at 13, he has gained a special aptitude for public speaking. Now it’s what he does for a living — and he's gotten so good he's now a record holder. He recently broke the world record (although he's still awating Guinness World Records's official confirmation) for the most speeches given in a 24-hour period; a record previously held by former Green Party Presidential candidate Ralph Nader.

Jackson gave 24 speeches compared to Nader’s 21. Rather than bragging about his record-shattering accomplishment, Jackson says, “[Breaking the] record brought a lot of positive media coverage to the St. Louis news cycle and I hope I inspired others to attempt to achieve their dreams.”

That’s one reason Jackson says, “My biggest accomplishment in the last year was getting to share my story with others.”

Jackson plans on doing even more. He wants to return to working at Washington’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program, where he spent several of his teen years lobbying. He has a book currently in progress.

“Who knows?” he adds with a shrug. “Maybe I’ll get married.”  

The future is wide open for the boy who beat all odds.

David Artavia is a New York City writer and founder of Real Gay Guy. He loves living vicariously through his friends. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page

(Photo Credit: Bailey E. Kinney of Dailey With Bailey)

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

David Artavia