Kokomo — It was a controversial part of Howard County’s history and forever linked Kokomo with the AIDS scare of the 1980s.
Kokomo and Howard County were thrust into the national spotlight when 13-year-old Ryan White, suffering from severe hemophilia, was diagnosed with AIDS from a blood transfusion. He was banned from attending Western Middle School. The case went to court, and the Indiana Department of Education eventually ruled White should be allowed to attend school.
White and his family eventually moved to Hamilton County where he attended Hamilton Heights High School and became a national spokesman against discrimination of people with AIDS. He died April 8, 1990. White was 18 years old.
The Howard County Historical Society has been awarded a $2,320 grant from the Howard County Community Foundation to examine the impact the Ryan White story had on the community through oral history interviews.
“It’s a difficult subject,” Kelly Karickhoff, executive director of the Historical Society, said. “We want people to understand the story from that time period.”
When White was diagnosed with AIDS, little was known about the disease or how it was spread.
“We want to give the Kokomo community a voice,” Karickhoff said. “There were good things that took place.
“It’s something that needs to be done,” she said. “It is a story that had not been collected.”
Karickhoff said decisions were made in 1984 based on the information that was available at the time, some of it misleading information. She said when White went to school in Hamilton County, the students and parents were educated about AIDS for weeks before White entered school.
A committee with the Howard County Historical Society has been doing research on White’s life for the past year and have reviewed all the books written about the case and gone through the Kokomo Tribune news clippings.