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For World AIDS Day, one mother shares her son's legacy

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Friday, December 1, 2023   

Today is World AIDS Day, a movement to unite people and communities in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

According to AIDSVu, in 2021, more than 11,000 Nevadans were living with HIV, with just over 500 being diagnosed that same year.

Jeanne White-Ginder is the mother of Ryan White, a teen who became a public face of the disease in the 1980s after contracting HIV during a blood transfusion when he was 13. Ryan fought discrimination and helped change the perception of the disease until he passed away in 1990.

White-Ginder says her son may be gone, but his legacy continues to hold strong purpose.

"Just to see people now living -- and those few that were able to make it until we got the meds, and to see them living long, productive lives -- is just so unbelievable and so rewarding," she said.

Five weeks after Ryan's death, Congress passed the Ryan White CARE Act with bipartisan support. The move helped enable better access to HIV testing and assistance to patients at various stages of the disease.

While a majority of those who have HIV in the Silver State are men who have sex with men, White-Ginder wanted to remind people it can impact anyone, regardless of labels and preferences.

She said advancements have been made since her son's passing, such as the development of antiretroviral therapy for those living with HIV as well as HIV prevention medication known as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). Even so, she voiced concern at seeing so many new cases of HIV each year, and said she would like to see more discussion taking place around HIV and AIDS.

"It needs to be part of a curriculum," White-Ginder insisted. "I think it is so important that we don't lose sight of the newly infected people and how we have a way of educating them, to teach them how you get AIDS and how you don't."

And while education is an important part of World AIDS Day, she added it is also important to remember all the individuals lost in the fight against HIV and AIDS, who got us to where we are today.


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