Ryan Wayne White (December 6, 1971 – April 8, 1990) was an American teenager from Kokomo, Indiana, who became a national poster child for HIV/AIDS in the United States after failing to be re-admitted to school following a diagnosis of AIDS. As a hemophiliac, he became infected with HIV from a contaminated factor VIII blood treatment and, when diagnosed in December 1984, was given six months to live. Doctors said he posed no risk to other students, as AIDS is not an airborne disease and spreads solely through body fluids, but AIDS was poorly understood by the general public at the time. When White tried to return to school, many parents and teachers in Howard County rallied against his attendance due to concerns of the disease spreading through bodily fluid transfer. A lengthy administrative appeal process ensued, and news of the conflict turned Ryan into a popular celebrity and advocate for AIDS research and public education. Surprising his doctors, Ryan White lived five years longer than predicted. He died on April 8, 1990, one month before his high school graduation. During the 1980s AIDS was largely stigmatized as an illness impacting the gay community, because it was first diagnosed among gay men. In the USA that perception shifted with the media focus placed on Ryan and other prominent straight HIV-infected people such as Magic Johnson, Arthur Ashe and the Ray brothers, although these cases were often framed as ‘innocent’ against gay men who were seen as ‘guilty’ subjects. The U.S. Congress passed a major piece of AIDS legislation, the Ryan White CARE Act, shortly after White's death. The Act has been reauthorized twice; Ryan White Programs are the largest provider of services for people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States.
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