Happy 40th Birthday, Ryan White!

Ryan White and I were part of the first generation to grow up with AIDS. Though I never met Ryan White, when I look at photos of him, it's like looking at photos of an old classmate because I remember him so well. I was a bit younger than him, and I didn't really understand AIDS yet, but I remember seeing him on the news, and I knew that it wasn't right that a boy was being kept out of school because he had a disease that he wouldn't spread to anyone else. Ryan White was an innocent boy, but he was being treated less than human. He was a hemophiliac, and he contracted HIV through a blood transfusion that was contaminated. 

I'm sure it must have already been a tough challenge as a child to be a hemophiliac and to have to receive blood transfusions. But, to be told that he had contracted HIV and that he would only have six months to live must have been devastating. His life, from that point on, should have been one in which everyone... *everyone*.... tried to give him as much peace, comfort and happiness as he could possibly have in his final months. Sadly, not everyone seemed to be able to fill their hearts with compassion for Ryan White, and they let fear rule their hearts. In fact, if you read the "Battle With Schools" section of the Ryan White Wikipedia article, you can see what a horrible battle Ryan White had to face just to attend school: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ryan_White

It made me feel nauseaous to read about how far some people were willing to go to make sure Ryan White could not attend school - from petitions, to court battles, to an auction to raise money to keep Ryan out of school, to being called "queer", to his supporters being called "queer" to a bullet through his home.

Why should an innocent child who had to go through the pain of blood transfusions, through the pain of finding out he had contracted HIV and would die soon, be treated so horribly? 

Even as a child watching this on the news, I knew it was wrong. Why didn't the adults know?

Ryan White was given six months to live, although he lived five years longer. He would have graduated from high school just a month after he died. As somebody who fought so hard simply for an education, Ryan White deserved to graduate more than anyone. Although he didn't get to graduate, the world can thank Ryan White for educating all of us. He taught all of us that an education is something that should never be taken for granted, and that it's worth fighting for. He taught us about HIV/AIDS. He taught many of us about compassion, and about how it's wrong to treat an innocent human the way he was treated, simply because he was diagnosed with HIV. 

Ryan White never asked to teach us those things. He was just trying to live a normal life of a child like me and every other kid. But, we are all thankful to him and his family for the determination they had to take on a battle that nobody should ever have to face. God bless Ryan White and his family. People all over the world are grateful to you. Thank you.

Last week was World AIDS Day. The world thanks you, Ryan White! Happy 40th birthday!

 

 

Thank you to    for posting this touching video of Ryan White on YouTube!

Thank you to Elton John, who created the Elton John AIDS foundation because of Ryan White: http://ejaf.org/

"This year for the holiday season, EJAF’s Founder Sir Elton John had the great pleasure of working with NEST Fragrances, the leading luxury home fragrance manufacturer, to create Sir Elton John’s Holiday, a special holiday candle to benefit the work of the Elton John AIDS Foundation. You can purchase the candles online at NeimanMarcus.com ."  Source: http://ejaf.org/2011/12/483/