Ryan White was an American teenager from Indiana, who became a national poster child for HIV/AIDS after failing to be re-admitted to school following a diagnosis of AIDS in 1984.  He became HIV-positive because of a blood transfusion during a time when people living with HIV were highly stigmatized because it was primarily affecting gay men.  Doctors explained that he could not transmit the virus to others, but people rejected education about HIV because of “who” it primarily affected, and he was refused re-entry into his school.  He became a national celebrity when he and his family fought back.

He won his appeals and eventually returned to school – where he faced bullying every day from students and uneducated educators.  He and his family moved to another town where Ryan White was greeted at school by students and administrators who had educated themselves on HIV, and were unafraid to shake his hand and welcome him to school.  He died, however, 1 month before his high school graduation in 1990.

His name is still spoken today through his legacy of the Ryan White CARE Act, passed in 1990 with 95 yeas to 3 nays after people like Anthony Fauci, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and even Elizabeth Taylor worked to pass legislation to ensure EVERYONE would have access to care – especially low-income, uninsured, and under-insured people affected by HIV/AIDS and their families.  That program is still in place today, and more important than ever during times like now when so many people have lost access to their insurance.

As we approach Dia de los Muertos, light a candle or add a memento to your alter to celebrate the life of Ryan White and the legacy he left behind.  If you’re living with HIV, and are not receiving treatment because you can’t afford it, are uninsured, under-insured or undocumented, celebrate the things Ryan White and his family fought so hard for by contacting the Ryan White Central Eligibility Office today to enroll in services.  They can help you access medical, prescription, behavioral health, nutrition, rent assistance, utility assistance, dental and more!  But you have to call:  602-212-3788.