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Visual AIDS - A Gallery of Art by HIV-Positive African Americans

Bradford Branch

click for full image
Branch - The Pussywillow SeriesBranch - etching published in Time Life Book of the Month Club for poetry collectionsBranch - Untitled Collage
Branch - etching published in Time Life Book of the Month Club for poetry collectionsBranch - Untitled CollageBranch - The Pussywillow Series
Oranges/Pussywillows (A)
1994; mono print, 24x18"

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Branch - Untitled CollageBranch - Untitled Collage

Bradford Branch
Home: New York, N.Y.
Age: 55
Diagnosed: 1987
Meds: Norvir (ritonavir) + Epzicom (abacavir/3TC, Kivexa) + Viread (tenofovir) + Reyataz (atazanavir)

Bradford Branch's dream was derailed by HIV, but in a triumph of will, he found his own way back on track. The youngest of five siblings, Branch was part of the first generation of his Barbadian family born in the United States. Assured by his family that he could accomplish anything he put his mind to, Branch chased his goal of becoming an fashion designer and earned a degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. After graduating, he began working in New York's garment industry as an illustrator, pattern maker and designer of boys' wear.

Branch's dream faltered in 1987, however, when several treatments for a chronic skin condition failed to produce any results. His physician suggested an HIV test. Looking back, Branch admits, "I was not at all surprised when the test came back positive. My friends were older than I was and had already begun dying off. My doctor told me based on the information that was available I might have three years to live. I never asked, 'Why me?'"

Branch's partner also tested positive and became progressively sicker. As his partner slowly deteriorated, battling not only HIV but alcoholism, cancer and dementia, Branch left his career behind to become his partner's devoted caregiver. "This was still during the time that people knew virtually nothing about AIDS, what caused it or how it was spread," Branch recalls. "His family, whom he loved more than himself, pretty much turned a blind eye to what was happening to him." Branch applied for disability and other benefits so he could continue to care for his partner. Branch's partner passed away in 1996.

After his partner's death, Branch redoubled his efforts to revive his career. He is now a full-time print maker, painter and decorative artist. He also worked in the arts study program at the Kennedy Center in Harlem. His etchings have been used by the Book of the Month Club on several occasions, and his medallions adorn the ceilings of the newly renovated Prince George Hotel in New York City.

"Now, some 20-odd years after my diagnosis, I have no misgivings on how truly blessed I am," Branch says. He has never been hospitalized for an HIV-related illness, and is doing well on HIV meds. The roller-coaster ride of his life has left him with an extraordinary sense of inner peace, as though he's been scoured clean by the experience: "I am so whole spiritually, it boggles my mind when I take stock of the fire I've been tested by," he says. "We are all where we are to be, and we have been given the experiences we encounter to get us to where we are."

"I have moved myself from a place of pity for myself to a place of empathy for all who suffer in any way," Branch says. "I realized that the more you give, the faster the well is replenished. I let everyone be where they are and I love unconditionally."

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