Ryan White's Mother, Jeanne White Ginder, spoke Wednesday to commemorate the day he died, compared his diagnosis with the current COVID-19 crisis and to remember her son.
More from the Children's Museum of Indianapolis on commemorating the 30th Anniversary of Ryan White's Death below:
In 1984, a teenager took the lead—educating a frightened world about a deadly disease. Kokomo, Indiana native Ryan White was just 13-years-old when he contracted AIDS through a tainted blood product used to treat his hemophilia.
30 years later, the world is facing another horrible disease that is claiming lives, COVID-19. Often, history teaches valuable lessons that can help with challenges faced today. Following his diagnosis, White was banned from attending his high school classes. Not attending school was not White’s choice, he simply wanted to be with friends and learn during a time when panic and fear gripped the nation. So, White’s family pursued Ryan’s right to attend school through legal channels. As his physical battle to fight the disease and the legal battle wore on, the White family moved to Cicero, Indiana where White was welcomed into Hamilton Heights High School. There, he made several new friends and earned his high school diploma. Ryan died on April 8, 1990 at the young age of 18-years-old.
Ryan’s mother says things aren’t so different these days when it comes to disease. “There are a lot of similarities today with COVID-19 with how people are scared and everyone has an opinion on how you get the disease and how you don’t. It’s extremely important to pay attention to the medical evidence and listen to medical experts and let them be the ones who guide us—not rumor,” said Jeanne White Ginder. “We have a chance to do something right now to save lives and that’s to stay home.” White Ginder went on to talk about how she still misses her son every day but is glad he made a huge difference in the world through the Ryan White Care Act, which provides a comprehensive system of HIV primary medical care, essential support services, and medications for people living with HIV to improve health outcomes and reduce HIV transmission among hard-to-reach populations. White Ginder has one regret, “We’ve not done our job by making the disease real to people. That was a big thing Ryan did. He made the disease real and it helped change lives.”
The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis proudly acquired all of the artifacts from Ryan’s teenage bedroom from his mother, Jeanne White Ginder. Under her watchful eye, the museum painstakingly recreated Ryan’s bedroom, which is part of the museum’s Power of Children permanent exhibit. Some of Ryan’s happiest memories took place in that home said his mother, especially in his room filled with toy collections, posters and other memorabilia.
The museum is temporarily closed due to social gathering restrictions resulting from COVID-19 but children and families can learn much more about Ryan White through a series of new blogs that can be found on The Children’s Museum website.
When things return to normal, after the coronavirus pandemic, Jeanne White Ginder plans to continue visiting Ryan’s room at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis several times a year to share memories and stories about Ryan’s journey. The courage and bravery of a young teenager fighting for his life and desire to be treated as a normal child is a strong message that stays with us today and can continue to help provide comfort and inspiration to others facing difficult life circumstances.