10 Sitcoms That Helped Remove Stigma From HIV And AIDS

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“The Ryan White Story”

Most people from Indiana, born around the ’80’s have heard of Ryan White. Ryan White, a hemophiliac, became the poster child for HIV/AIDS after receiving a contaminated blood transfusion. He was diagnosed in 1984 and given six months to live. But in the following  months and years, Ryan was treated terribly. He was expelled from his middle school, once parents learned of his status. Unwilling to have their son be discriminated against, his parents took his case to court. It was eventually ruled that White should be allowed to attend school. 151 of 360 students stayed home the day he came back.

White was also a paperboy and people canceled their subscriptions believing they could contract the disease through the paper. Others shouted at him in the street, saying “we know you’re queer.” In middle school White had to eat with disposable utensils, use a separate bathroom and was not allowed to participate in gym class. When a bullet was fired through the family home, they decided to leave Kokomo, Indiana where he had been born and raised. It wasn’t until he transferred to a school in Cicero that White was finally treated fairly. White became a spokesperson for the disease, educating people with the truth of HIV/AIDS. And his story inspired The Ryan White Story, an ABC special. The TV movie was reportedly seen by 15 million viewers. In 1990, at 18, six years–and not six months– after he’d been diagnosed, Ryan died from AIDS complications.

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