Ryan White1

NOT FORGOTTEN: Jeanne White-Ginder pays tribute to her son, Ryan, at his gravestone. Ryan White died in 1990 from complications from AIDS. For many people, the teenager became the face of the disease and helped educate the nation about the deadly virus.

When Ryan White was born in Kokomo on Dec. 6, 1971, his mother hoped she had a future Wildkat.

That dream ended when he was diagnosed with hemophilia three days later.

While he was battling pneumonia, White had to have surgery on Dec. 17, 1984, to have two inches of his left lung removed. Two hours after the surgery, doctors told his mother that he had AIDS.

White contracted the disease through a blood-clotting agent used to treat his hemophilia. He was given six months to live.

But Ryan White was a fighter.

His struggle to attend school and lead a normal life would make him a household name throughout the nation and put a youthful face on the devastating virus.

It’s been 20 years since Ryan White won his court battle and the right to attend school.

His story helped educate a nation and his struggles helped pave the way for others who suffer from AIDS.

Before Ryan White, the average American thought that only people who were gay or were intravenous drug users could get AIDS.

Ryan White was neither gay nor a drug user — he was just a normal boy.

For many people, the young boy from the Midwest, infected through a blood transfusion, became the face of AIDS.

Americans could sympathize and relate to Ryan White.

In 1987, the Ryan White National Foundation was formed to educate and fight misconceptions about children with AIDS. To this day, the foundation continues to make progress educating the public and assisting those suffering from the virus.

Ryan White died on April 8, 1990, at the age of 18.

Those attending his funeral included Michael Jackson, Howie Long, Barbara Bush, Phil Donahue and Elton John.

Gov. Evan Bayh ordered that flags in Indiana be flown at half-staff in honor of White.

In 1990, Congress enacted The Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act, the United States’ largest federally funded program (excluding Medicaid and Medicare) for the care of those living with HIV and AIDS.

In 2006, the Ryan White CARE Act will spend more than $2 billion to help pay for the needs of Americans living with HIV and AIDS, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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