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 >>>>