Twenty-four years after his father injected him with HIV-infected blood, Brryan Jackson faced him for the first time.
Jackson arrived at the Missouri Department of Corrections to tell Bryan Stewart just how drastically he had changed his son’s life.
And he wanted to make sure Stewart, who is serving a life sentence for the horrific crime, would be denied parole.
Jackson was just 11-months-old when his father, who was working as a blood tester at the time, tried to kill his only son.
Brryan Jackson, 25, was injected with HIV-infected blood by his father Bryan Stewart when he was just an 11-month-old baby. Jackson faced Stewart for the first time at his parole hearing
He had been fighting over child support payments with Jackson’s mother, who had left him earlier that year after he became physically and emotionally abusive.
Stewart had become a different person from the man Jackson’s mother had fallen in love with when they were both training as medics at a Missouri military facility.
When Jackson’s mother found out she was pregnant in 1991, Stewart was ‘really excited’.
But everything changed when he returned from Operation Desert Storm in Saudi Arabia, Jackson told the BBC.
Stewart tried to kill his son (pictured as a baby) so that he wouldn’t have to keep paying child support, Jackson said
Suddenly Stewart was claiming that Jackson wasn’t his child and demanded a DNA test. That’s when the abuse began.
Jackson’s mother left Stewart, but the brutal fights continued. Jackson said his father would tell her: ‘Your child’s not going to live beyond the age of five’.
Contact between Stewart and Jackson’s mother ceased, but when the boy was hospitalized with an asthma attack his father found the perfect opportunity to strike.
Investigators later discovered Stewart had been stealing samples of infected blood from the laboratory he worked at and was storing them at his home.
He had even joked with coworkers about infecting someone with one of the viruses, saying ‘they’d never even know what hit them’.
When Stewart visited Jackson on the day he was scheduled to be discharged from the hospital, his mother was surprised.
‘He wasn’t a very active father, so everyone thought it was strange when he showed up,’ Jackson said.
Stewart asked Jackson’s mother to grab him a drink from the cafeteria. When he was finally alone with his son, Stewart injected the boy with the infected blood.
Jackson, who had just been nursed back to health, immediately began to deteriorate.
‘My vital signs were all out of whack because it wasn’t just HIV blood he had injected me with, it was incompatible with mine,’ he said.
Jackson was sent home after his vital signs were restored, but his health continued to worsen.
Jackson said Stewart (pictured together) was at first ‘really excited’ about having a son. But that all changed when he returned from Operation Desert Storm in Saudi Arabia
Stewart began to emotionally and physically abuse Jackson’s mother (pictured with Brryan), who eventually left him
It would be four years before his doctors finally figured out the cause.
Jackson’s pediatrician woke up from a nightmare one night and called the hospital. She asked them to check the young boy for HIV.
‘When the test came back, I was diagnosed with full-blown AIDS and three opportunistic infections,’ Jackson said. He was given five months to live.
Jackson continued to receive treatment and, although the medication did leave him with 70 percent hearing loss, he began to get better.
The boy was soon allowed to go to school, but was met with horrific bullying and public shaming.
‘The tragedy of my school life was that the school didn’t want me,’ he said. ‘Back in the 90s people thought you could get AIDS from a toilet seat.’
Jackson wasn’t allowed to drink from the water fountain and could only use a specific bathroom.
Parents refused to invite him to their children’s birthdays. The kids at school started calling him ‘AIDS boy, gay boy’.
Jackson posted a loving tribute to his mother this year. She took him to doctors for four years before he was finally diagnosed with ‘full blown AIDS’
And she was there for her son (pictured together in a recent photo) when Jackson was bullied at school and struggled to come to terms with what his father had done to him
‘That’s when I started to feel isolated and alone,’ Jackson said. ‘I felt like there was no place in the world for me.’
Things didn’t become any easier when Jackson realized what his father had done to him.
‘At first I was very angry and bitter,’ he said. ‘I grew up watching movies where fathers cheer on their sons from the sidelines.’
‘I couldn’t wrap my mind around how my own father could do that to me. He didn’t just try to kill me, he changed my life forever.’
Jackson contemplated suicide but found comfort in his newfound Christian faith, which led to him forgiving his father.
‘Forgiveness isn’t easy,’ he said, ‘But I didn’t want to lower myself to his level.’
Jackson, who was born Bryan Stewart Jr, changed his name last year and adopted his mother’s surname to further his association with his father.
And when he saw Stewart for the first time, Jackson tried to avoid making eye contact with him.
‘I recognized him from his mugshot, but I have no connection to him,’ he said. ‘I wouldn’t even recognize him as my father.’
‘During the parole hearing, he kept calling me his son. I tried to raise my hand to request he refer to me as his victim.’
‘I thought, at what point have I ever been his son? Was I his son when he intentionally injected me with HIV?’
Jackson now works as a motivational speaker, and dreams of the day he will become a father
Jackson found out in July that his father had been denied parole for another five years, a verdict he said was ‘very empowering’.
‘There have been times I’ve woken up from nightmares, scared he might come back to finish the job,’ Jackson said.
‘I may have forgiven him, but even in forgiveness I believe you have to pay the consequences.’
Now Jackson, who works as a motivational speaker, is focusing his attention on his biggest dream of all – his own chance to become a father.
‘I would love to be a dad,’ he said. ‘A dad is one of the things in life I think I am meant to be.’
Jackson said he is healthier than ever, with an above average T-cell count and an undetectable HIV status.
‘That gives me virtually no chance of passing the virus on,’ he said. ‘I’ve gone from taking 23 pills a day to taking one.’
Jackson is still fighting against his disease’s stigma, saying worried parents have ended multiple relationships.
But he still looks forward to the future, and being the kind of father he never got to have.
‘I’d like to root my kids in hope,’ he said. ‘I want to give them a vision that the world is a peaceful place and I am always going to be there to protect them.’
‘Through bad things, great things are possible.’