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Mom of AIDS victim Ryan White finds solace in his memory 30 years after death

Jeanne White-Ginder, the mother of Ryan White, shown at the White House in 2009, said Wednesday it is still therapeutic for her to talk about her son 30 years after his death. Photo by Aude Guerrucci/UPI
Jeanne White-Ginder, the mother of Ryan White, shown at the White House in 2009, said Wednesday it is still therapeutic for her to talk about her son 30 years after his death. Photo by Aude Guerrucci/UPI | License Photo

April 8 (UPI) -- The mother of Ryan White, the Indiana teenager whose death due to AIDS in 1990 galvanized a nation, said Wednesday it is still therapeutic for her to talk about her son's life.

Jeanne White-Ginder said during a video news conference from Leesburg, Fla., where she and her husband now live, she hoped against hope that her son would overcome the disease. White died 30 years ago Wednesday at 18, but she said her memories of her son and their struggles remain fresh in her mind.

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White, a hemophiliac, contracted AIDS through tainted blood. His family was forced to leave their small Indiana town when the public learned of his condition and threatened violence on the family.

"I thought if anybody was going to beat AIDS, it was going to be Ryan," said White-Ginder of her son, who lived years passed the six months doctors gave him. "No one thought he would live for 5 1/2 years."

RELATED UPI Archive 1990: Ryan White, AIDS victim who fought to go to school, dies

"[Remembering Ryan] puts a smile on your face but at the same time it's so very sad to remember those days," she said. Many people and celebrities, though, would eventually rally around the boy, whose story was turned into a television movie.

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White-Ginder remembered the help singer Elton John gave her, from fielding phone calls for her to assisting in picking out White's casket after he died.

"There wasn't a want or need I had because of him," White-Ginder said. "I wish I could remember it all."

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She said White's room, which was donated to the Indianapolis Children's Museum, stands in a testament to her son's courage, and she is grateful that it continues to help tell his story.

She said she remains proud of the passage of the federal Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resource Care Act, which called for federal funding of AIDS education, research and medical care. White-Ginder said she was moved when Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., called her personally to ask if they could attach her son's name to the bill.

White-Ginder said she sees numerous similarities between the AIDS epidemic and the current coronavirus pandemic. She said she fears that too many people are not listening to medical experts, much like the AIDS crisis, and it will end up costing lives.

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"People are scared," White-Ginder said of COVID-19. "People did not want to listen to medical facts [during the AIDS epidemic]. I think it's the same way with COVID-19. We're running scared and don't know all the answers."

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White-Ginder said people should stay inside, saying if the country could weather AIDS, it can overcome the coronavirus. She said most of all, people should listen to medical experts.

RELATED UPI Archive 1988: Teenager Ryan White describes AIDS battle to commission

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