August 5, 2011
Throughout my life but prior to my son's birth, I had major difficulties adhering to my medication. Honestly, I still have problems digesting pills, which I hate (actually, "hate" is not a strong-enough word). However, the thought of my son makes swallowing the pills a bit more tolerable.
I had never thought that I would be able to have children, and being blessed with the son I have is unimaginable. He is the most adorable, funny and intuitive child that I have met. His smile is infectious, and his laugh is contagious. Every time he sees me, he calls, "Dad!" and his arms begin to flail as he runs to me with joy. Nothing in my life explains how my heart jumps to realize the love that radiates from him. Every day I praise God for his existence. I have always had reasons to live, but none like this.
However, I can look at him and become so sad. I begin to ask myself: How much of his life will I be around for? What will I do when children tease him because his father has AIDS? How am I going to explain my condition and its severity without making him afraid? How am I going to feel if he ever asks if I am dying? Will he be ashamed of me because I am HIV positive?
I experience myriad emotions because, though I love my son, I hate that AIDS could cause such pain in his life. My child, whom I am supposed to protect, support and comfort, will suffer because of this. I have mixed emotions about fatherhood and my own mortality, since sometimes I grow tired of chasing him and playing with him because my immune system is so compromised.
Despite all of this, I know that God never puts more on you than you can bear. As long as I am a positive influence in my son's life and provide for him the best way I can, he will be fine. At least that is what I tell myself to make it through.
Fatherhood is hard. I work to be the strongest man I can so that I can be the best father I can. My love for my son has no limits. I just have to do what I have to do, for him and for me -- which in this case means adhering to my medications so that I can have more time to watch him grow into a man who will be able to stand on his own and raise his own son one day.
William Brawner, 30, is the founder and executive director of Haven Youth Center, a non-profit providing services to HIV-positive youth in Philadelphia.