ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Health»
  • Diseases, Disorders & Conditions

Uncommon Influence

Updated on December 3, 2009

He became the public face of AIDS in the 1980s when he became a victim of the disease as a result of a blood transfusion at just 13 years old. He became the number one activist as he fought to be permitted to return to school and, in the process, educated a nation.

Ryan White was an Indiana teenager who was healthy most of his young life with the exception of hemophilia. HIV was discovered in the course of a partial lung removal surgery which was necessary due to pneumonia. After his HIV diagnosis, he appeared on television shows and magazine covers as he struggled to make people understand that he did not pose a danger to them.

In an effort to remove the stigma of the disease, White appeared frequently with celebrities such as Elton John, Michael Jackson, John Cougar Mellencamp, President and Mrs. Reagan, Coach Bobby Knight, NBA star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Phil Donahue and many others. His crush, Alyssa Milano, gave him a kiss during one of his appearances on Phil Donahue's talk show.

We owe it to Ryan to make sure that the fear and ignorance that chased him from his home and his school will be eliminated. We owe it to Ryan to be compassionate, caring and tolerant toward those with AIDS, their families and friends. It's the disease that's frightening, not the people who have it. - Ronald Reagan

Elton John helped the family purchase a new home and Michael Jackson bought White a red Mustang Convertible. Jackson didn't stop there. Along with befriending the boy and his family, he took them on vacations.

White spoke to President Reagan's AIDS Commission in 1988 to describe the discrimination he faced following his diagnosis when AIDS was still misunderstood. He stated that due to public education, he was welcome in the town of Cicero where Elton John had helped them to relocate.

While White lived five years longer than doctors had predicted, he died at the age of 18 just shy of graduation.

More than 1,500 people attended White's funeral and his pallbearers included Elton John, football star Howie Long and Phil Donahue. Elton John performed at the funeral which was also attended by Michael Jackson and First Lady Barbara Bush.

In a written statement which appeared in the Washington Post, President Ronald Reagan stated, "We owe it to Ryan to make sure that the fear and ignorance that chased him from his home and his school will be eliminated. We owe it to Ryan to open our hearts and our minds to those with AIDS. We owe it to Ryan to be compassionate, caring and tolerant toward those with AIDS, their families and friends. It's the disease that's frightening, not the people who have it."

Michael Jackson wrote a poem, song and produced a video about White called "Gone too Soon."

White did not live long enough to witness Congress pass the AIDS bill that bears his name – The Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act or CARE. In 2006, it was renamed the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program. President Barack Obama reauthorized it in October.

The Ryan White program works with cities, states and community-based organizations services to more than half a million people each year. The majority of the fund supports primary medical care and essential support services as well as technical assistance, training and research.

White's mother, Jeanne White-Ginder stood by her son throughout his struggle and continues to be a strong activist. While talking with visitors at the Indianapolis Children's Museum July 8 about Michael Jackson, she said Jackson's efforts mean even more now that he has died as well.

β€œThe work showed that Michael did not ever plan on forgetting Ryan and now we plan on never forgetting Michael,” said White-Ginder.

While there were many early famous faces of AIDS including Rock Hudson, Magic Johnson, Freddie Mercury and others, White made the largest impact and his inspiration continues today.

Numerous charities formed around his death including the Elton John AIDS Foundation, the Ryan White Foundation (merged with AIDS Action in 2000), The Indiana University Dance Marathon which raises money for the Riley Hospital for Children and The Ryan White Infectious Disease Clinic at the hospital and many others.

He inspired artists who dedicated songs and entire albums in his memory and The Children's Museum of Indianapolis opened an exhibit called "The Power of Children: Making a Difference" which featured White along with Anne Frank and Ruby Bridges.

As we observe World AIDS Day on December 1, I can't help but wonder if we would have come as far as we have in the elimination of discrimination, research and treatment if it were not for the courage of Ryan White. He was a common teenager who would not stop fighting and, through others, continues to fight today – he's common no more.

In memory of Vic


Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      h.e.g. 8 years ago

      Thanks for this very informative and touching post. Though I'm too young to remember seeing or hearing about Ryan White while he was alive, his legacy is tremendous, and his courage continues to be inspiring.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is used to quickly and efficiently deliver files such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisements has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)