Ryan White, 1971-1990
Story by The AIDS Memorial
Recording by Jim Parsons
Ryan White (December 6, 1971 – April 8, 1990) was a teenager from Kokomo, Indiana, who was expelled from his school due to his HIV status. He died when he was 18 years old.
White is buried in Cicero, close to the former home of his mother. In 1991, his grave was vandalized on four occasions.
White, a hemophiliac, contracted HIV through a blood transfusion. He was diagnosed in December 1984 and told that he had only 6 months left to live.
Doctors said that White posed no risk to other pupils. However, when he attempted to return to school, parents and teachers protested against his attendance, scared that he could transmit HIV through casual contact.
The dispute made news headlines around the world and turned White into an advocate for AIDS research and education. Although he lived 5 years longer than predicted, he sadly died just one month before his high school graduation.
Over 1,500 people attended White’s funeral on April 11, 1990 at the Second Presbyterian Church on Meridian Street, Indianapolis. His pallbearers included Sir Elton John AIDS Fundation and Phil Donahue. His funeral was also attended by @MichaelJackson.
Sir @EltonJohn performed a song he wrote in 1969, Skyline Pigeon, at the funeral. White also inspired him to create @ejaf.
On the day of the funeral, former President Ronald Reagan wrote a tribute to White that appeared in The Washington Post. This was seen as an indication of how White had helped change the public’s view of HIV AIDS, especially when considering Reagan’s indifference to the virus. By the time he finally addressed the epidemic in 1987, nearly 23,000 Americans had already perished.