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Ryan White

Ryan was so brave and strong. He turned his negative into a positive by educating the world about AIDS. He showed me that AIDS is not prejudiced. It can infect children, adults, mothers, fathers, sisters, sons and daughters. It is not something that only the bad, dirty, poor or ignorant get. I will always remember him, his fight, his family and what he taught me as a teenager. I would have been honoured to have met him.

On December 6, 1971, Ryan Wayne White was born. Three days later, doctors told his parents that he was a hemophiliac. That means his blood does not clot properly. Luckily, there was a new product out that had clotting agents in it. This product was called Factor VIII. It was made from blood. Ryan grew up having to have many blood transfusions—and one of them contained HIV. At 13, Ryan found out he was HIV positive. He was given six months to live. But he was a fighter.

He was determined to continue at his school and live life normally. But in 1985 not very much was known about AIDS. Ryan faced a lot of discrimination. His school tried to keep him from attending and the town where he lived was not very supportive. Students at his school spray-painted his locker with the word fag and restaurants threw his dishes away after he left. A bullet was even fired into his home.

After that, he and his family moved to Indiana and Ryan was happy again. He got his learner’s permit, made new friends and was doing talks around the country to educate people about AIDS. There was a movie made about him, entitled The Ryan White Story. Ryan even got to be an actor in it.

But on April 8, 1990, the world lost a wonderful person. Ryan White’s example and commitment to AIDS education made a difference for us today.

Hospital for Sick Children University of Toronto Positive Youth Outreach CATIE