The public uproar he caused more than 25 years ago still echoes today.
The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program hauled in $2.2 billion this past fiscal year — and it’s all to benefit HIV/AIDS sufferers in memory of a teenager whose tragic death will not soon be forgotten.
Ryan White was kicked out of his school in Indiana after officials found out about his infection, which happened from a contaminated blood treatment that was diagnosed in December 1984. Although initially given only six months to live, he didn’t die until 1990.
The reason he was expelled from school is the fear that ran rampant at the time that he was a risk to other students, and with the HIV/AIDS panic fully gripping the public, the stigma against those who had the disease was great — and the injustice toward White became symbolic of the movement.
In fact, doctors don’t believe White posed any risk to kids, but it didn’t stop parents and teachers in Kokomo, his town, from rallying to prevent him from getting back to school. Some children even accused him of threatening to taint them with his salivea and blood. It resulted in a huge legal battle and extensive media coverage, bringing awareness for AIDS research.
There was also the fact that the disease was associated with the male gay community. White’s predicament resulted in public attention to the fact that HIV affects more than just gay males.
It eventually resulted in the passage of the Ryan White Care Act shortly after his death.
Today, it has resulted in the creation of a foundation that Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell announced this week had doled out $2.2 billion in grants to cities and communities to support better care for those affected by HIV and access to support services and medications.
The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program “has played a critical role in the United States’ public health response to HIV,” Burwell said in a statement.