World AIDS Day 35: Remember and Commit
Thursday, November 30, 2023
As World AIDS Day turns 35, the mother of an Indiana teen who became the public face of the disease is a reminder of the importance of never forgetting the hard work of medical researchers and the victims lost in the frenzy to find a cure.
More than 40 million people have died from AIDS, including Ryan White, who grew up in central Indiana at a time when not much was known about it and medicine offered few treatments. Ryan contracted the disease during a blood transfusion at age 13. He became a staunch advocate against discrimination and helped change how Americans view AIDS.
Jeanne White-Ginder, who eventually left Indiana for Florida, said it is imperative to remember all the lost lives.
"That is so important that we remember all the people who got us to where we are today, because they are no longer here," White-Ginder noted. "And I'm not just talking about Ryan, because Ryan was a face, but there are so many people that did all the work."
Just five weeks after Ryan's death in 1990, Congress overwhelmingly passed the Ryan White CARE Act with bipartisan support. The legislation helps more people get tested for HIV and offers assistance to patients in all stages of the disease.
Ryan's mom emphasized AIDS affects people across the spectrum, regardless of labels.
"A gay person has it, a straight person has it, a blood transfusion person has it; it was for everybody," White-Ginder explained. "Once you have AIDS, you're just like everybody else who has AIDS; you're fighting to stay alive. And people fought to stay alive, and people dedicated their lives to get us to where we are today."
She added Ryan would have turned 52 next week.
His mom plans to travel to Indiana University on his birthday, where the Rural Center for AIDS/STD Prevention will present the Ryan White Distinguished Leadership Award to Dr. Joe and Sarah Ellen Mamlin.
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