Monday, August 24, 2009

Lifeforce Comics Heroes and Icons: Ryan White (1971-1990)

Ryan Wayne White (December 6, 1971 – April 8, 1990) was an American teenager from Kokomo, Indiana who became a national poster child for HIV/AIDS in the United States after being expelled from school because of his infection. A hemophiliac, he became infected with HIV from a contaminated blood treatment and, when diagnosed in 1984, was given six months to live. Though doctors said he posed no risk to other students, AIDS was poorly understood at the time, and when White tried to return to school, many parents and teachers in Kokomo rallied against his attendance. A lengthy legal battle with the school system ensued, and media coverage of the struggle made White into a national celebrity and spokesman for AIDS research and public education.

He appeared frequently in the media with celebrities such as Elton John, Michael Jackson and Phil Donahue. Surprising his doctors, White lived five years longer than predicted and died in April 1990, shortly before he would have completed high school.

Before White, AIDS was a disease widely associated with the male homosexual community, because it was first diagnosed there. That perception shifted as White and other prominent HIV-infected people, such as Magic Johnson, the Ray brothers and Kimberly Bergalis, appeared in the media to advocate for more AIDS research and public education to address the epidemic. The U.S. Congress passed a major piece of AIDS legislation, the Ryan White Care Act, shortly after White's death. The Act was reauthorized in 2006; its Ryan White Programs are the largest provider of services for people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States. READ MORE >>>>

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Obama Administration Launches Nationwide AIDS Awareness Campaign

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with the blessing of the White House, is starting a five-year campaign to increase HIV/AIDS awareness in the United States.

By Kelly Chernenkoff
Wednesday, April 08, 2009

In the hopes of plucking the HIV and AIDS crisis from the abyss of public apathy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with the blessing of the White House, announced Tuesday a five-year nationwide public awareness campaign called "Act Against AIDS."

Though President Obama has expressed his desire to loosen the negative grip that HIV/AIDS has on people's perceptions, the real fuel for this campaign comes from the CDC, in the amount of roughly $45 million.

According to data released by the CDC, in the United States each year, approximately 56,000 people get infected with HIV and more than 14,000 die from AIDS.

The first phase of the program is called "9½ Minutes," that's the frequency with which someone in the United States becomes infected with HIV. To highlight this problem, the CDC has set up, which has both facts and figures on the HIV infection rate and the resources to address it.

In a press rollout that also included the president's domestic policy advisor, Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of the CDC's center that deals with HIV and AIDS prevention, announced that the impetus for these efforts was the "serious threat to the health of our nation. And that threat is complacency."
The effort to address that complacency and to jolt the public's awareness will include a variety of venues: video, audio, print, online, and even messages on subway cars.

The campaign will focus on the populations most severely affected by HIV, beginning with African-Americans.

In getting their message out, the CDC will team up with 14 African-American organizations, including well-known groups like the NAACP and The National Urban League. The CDC says that though the African American community makes up just 12 percent of the U.S. population, but represents roughly half of the new HIV infections and AIDS deaths every year.

Famed civil and women's rights advocate and chairwoman of the National Council of Negro Women Dorothy Height punctuated the concerns of the African-American community when she said, simply, "This is personal. This is important."

As the five-year campaign continues, other high-risk groups will be targeted like Latinos and other communities "disproportionately impacted," advocates say.