Ryan White Day

Sitting in front of my television set one night, I saw my reality on screen: A young man named Ryan White taking clotting factor for a bleed. Having never seen a movie showing someone with hemophilia having factor injected into his arm, just as I had done so many times, the images were surreal.

But the 1980s was an era of the devastation of HIV/AIDS in our communities. And finding out that the medication those of us with hemophelia took could transmit an incurable, life-threatening disease shadowed each of us.

The AIDS story is forever interwoven in the story of our bleeding disorder. No amount of time that passes will change that reality. For those lost, for the families robbed of their loved ones, and for the survivors who must continue to battle HIV/AIDS, there is no rest from this tragedy.

Although I was not infected, Ryan White was my voice. Knowing his fate was already decided, Ryan put aside his fears and resentments for having AIDS and helped build a movement that spoke volumes about the destruction of this disease.

In my circle and for many outside, HIV/AIDS was a gay disease. This was not only a falsehood, it formed one more reason for the compassionless to stigmatize and marginalize a population they already had ignorant prejudices against.

Ryan’s courage brought people like Elton John to engage in a partnership of love to fight this disease, rather than an unholy alliance of blame and hate.

Today, as we remember the 25th anniversary of Ryan White’s passing, we honor all those who perished needlessly from HIV-tainted factor. We remember Ryan’s legacy as a symbol to our community that only through knowledge and cooperation can we promote a future that will prevent history from repeating itself.

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