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Mother Continues Her Fight Against HIV, Despite Her Son’s Death | Health

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Mother Continues Her Fight Against HIV, Despite Her Son’s Death
Health, People

Atlanta, GA--  Marty Mitchell’s son, Brett Lykins, was diagnosed with HIV at age seven. Premature at birth in 1980, Brett had received a blood transfusion that infected him with the disease. As he grew up, Brett proudly served as the youth spokesperson for AIDS Walk Atlanta & 5K Run until age 18. Though he passed away in 2007, at age 27, his mother continues to tell his story and hopes that one day, the virus that cut her son’s life short, will be a thing of the past.   

After Brett was diagnosed, Marty attended a couple of support meetings at AID Atlanta, but was living in Duluth and needed a group that was closer to home. “In 1989, I read about a couple in Loganville whose son was dying of AIDS,” she recalled. “They started a support group in their gun shop with an answering machine, which later led to the creation of AID Gwinnett.”

Brett went to public school and his mom did her best to play the hand they were dealt. “He just wanted to be normal,” she said. Brett’s father left home in 1994, which left Marty having to support herself and her son. “He was quite a kid and we managed to cram in a lot during those 27 years, even with my working fulltime.” 

Brett’s involvement with AIDS Walk Atlanta began at age 11, when he spoke to the crowd assembled at the first Walk in 1990. Marty recalls, “I held my breath as Elton John sang ‘Candle in the Wind’ with Brett sitting next to him, and I was overjoyed when organizers released hundreds of doves as thousands of people took to Atlanta’s streets in a demonstration.”

Over the next few years, Brett mingled with Tom Hanks, Dustin Hoffman, Shaquille O'Neal and Magic Johnson. He carried the Olympic Torch leading up to the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. And, he even appeared with Phil Donahue on Good Morning America. “Even with all of the celebrities, Brett remained grounded and never complained about his life living with AIDS, rather he was devoted to educating others about HIV,” Marty said.

For each of the 12 years that Brett served as the youth spokesperson for AIDS Walk Atlanta, Marty stood with him and witnessed the energy and power of the thousands of people assembled in Piedmont Park.  “I believe the collective effort of many individuals makes AIDS Walk Atlanta & 5K Run the overwhelming success that it is,” she said.One person doing something good is wonderful. Thousands of people uniting with the common goal of caring for people living with AIDS and preventing new infections is overwhelming and amazing.”

As an adult, Brett found his passion was working for a travel agency. However, he began to lose interest in fighting the disease and chose to let it run its course. Entering hospice in June 2007, he only lived until August of that year. Since then, his mother, now 59 years old, has remained active in the AIDS community. 

“I’ve fought so long to end this virus,” she said. “Just because he’s gone, it doesn’t mean this virus is gone. I’ll be glad to celebrate not celebrating this anymore. We need to end the spread of this disease; it’s gone on too long for something that is preventable.”

For more information or to register for this year’s Walk, visit www.aidswalkatlanta.com or call (404) 876-9255 (WALK).

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