Ryan White: A study of humanity
By Rick Yencer
MUNCIE, IN - It was still hard for Jeanne White-Ginder to tell the tragedy of her son's death that became an international cause to fight injustice and discrimination over the deadly HIV/AIDS virus.
"All I ever wanted to be was a mom," said White-Ginder, about her son, Ryan White, who became a celebrity over his fight against HIV/AIDS more than 20 years ago.
White-Ginder was the headliner at Ball State University's look at HIV in central Indiana Thursday night. Some recent reports suggest that STDs are on the rise by about 25 percent, according to local health department reports. Actual HIV cases have remained stable during the same time.
More than 100 people heard White-Ginder's story about her son's death while others talked about the every day problem with HIV and AIDS infections and transmitted diseases. Many were there just for college class credit, like Steve Moore and Katie Lefeld who did not know who White was. Others like therapist Pamela Keller just wanted to hear that story of humanity that was White helping others and telling the truth about HIV/AIDS.
There was 17 year-old Paige Rawl of Indianapolis who was born HIV positive and is now the youngest certified teacher for HIV/AIDS. She was a high school cheerleader and won several awards for her volunteerism. and work in the HIV/AIDS community.
And there was Marissa Miller who is a post operative transsexual and has been living with HIV for 23 years.Next month, she will open the first job and transitional housing agency for transgender people in the state.
It was White-Ginder who brought realism to the fight against ignorance and prejudice about HIV/AIDS during the early days of the 1980s. There was White, a hemophillac, who contacted AIDS from a blood transfusion. and had to endure prejudice and hate from members of his class at Kokomo High School who had all but banned him from the school.
It was White, then a teenager, to take AIDS and turn it into a cause that would encourage private drug companies like Eli Lilly to provide more medicine and treatment to victims of AIDS. The old documentary of White that aired on CBS and the then 57th Street news program that reminded the audience that White had a worldwide following like Elton John, who was with him when he died and always played at benefits to raise money for AIDS relief. And there was that made for television movie on the White story raised enough money and for the family to move on down road,
White contacted AIDS from a blood transfusion in 1984 and then waged an five year fight to maintain a normal life before he died. That turned into conflict as he was kicked out of his public school in Kokomo after the public feared the spread of AIDS which was not possible. The family later moved to Cicero where White was more accepted and was buried after his death.
White-Ginder offered a tragic description of her son's final years amid his celebrity status to educate the world about HIV/AIDS that also resulted in a federal law funding AIDS research, education and medical treatment . For the next 20 years, White-Ginder has been telling that story to help protect people against sexually transmitted diseases.
Thursday's event was an effort to teach students about safe sex While the disease has declined nationwide, more than 7,500 people have died from AIDS during the last 20 years.