Yesterday on Facebook, most of my friends posted this article, which tells the story of William “Reds” Brawner, the young man who is HIV positive and had unprotected sex with multiple women during his matriculation at Howard University.
Now, before I begin sharing my thoughts, let me give you a little background about Mr. Brawner. At 18 months old, he was the recipient of a blood transfusion due to burns received from scalding hot water. Months later, William’s mother, Linda, received a call from a doctor stating that her son may have received blood from a donor who had GRID, which stands for “gay-related immune disorder” (AIDS originally name). Living in Philadelphia, Linda had her son tested and his results came back positive; William had HIV. Linda, along with her family, decided not to tell anyone that William was HIV positive. While William knew of his status and was even an AIDS activist on campus, he knowingly had unprotected sex while in college. And what’s even more shocking is that he didn’t tell his partners.
In the film “25 to Life”, William, his friends, and his family, relay their stories about his experience and what they also went through. At least 3 of his partners from Howard were interviewed. So far, it has been determined that William did not give the disease to anyone.
I was so devastated to read this story, for a number of reasons. First, I find it disheartening that at this day and time, people, especially women, are having unprotected sex, specifically with someone you’re not dating exclusively. Next, I can’t believe someone who knew their status would be so careless as to not protect their partner. That lets me know that he didn’t care about his partners…AT ALL. And although William is definitely to blame for his actions, I also put some ownness on his mother. I believe Linda put her son and his friends, classmates, and potential mates at risk by NOT disclosing his condition to his school administrators. What if he got injured at school? Medical officials would need to know his status to further protect themselves and the students. Mrs. Brawner did a real injustice and disservice to her son by not making him feel comfortable with his condition. Yes, he may have met with some resistance, but let’s look at Rae Lewis-Thornton and Hydeia Broadbent, AIDS activist who are also HIV positive. I’m not naive enough to believe people wouldn’t look at him crazy and automatically think things about him that are untrue. But it would serve him when dealing with people who aren’t small-minded and are willing to get to know him for the person he is.
The main thing I learned while reading about William is to not take anything for granted. If you are sexually active, take your partner to get tested. Make it a date. (OK, maybe not the most romantic thing, but at least you know that you both are safe.) And just because someone doesn’t “look” sick doesn’t mean they don’t have an illness. And there are so many STD’s besides HIV, such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, and herpes, that can be contracted if safe sex isn’t practiced. If you don’t care about your health, how do you expect anyone else to? Until next time, I’m just a Southern girl…in the city.
Also, check out this article from “The Loop”.