A few weeks ago, a friend of mine, PA Maglochlainn, died. PA fought to make the world a better place, and while he wasn’t old when he died, he wasn’t a young man either.
Today would have been Ryan White’s 41st birthday, but Ryan died in 1990, at the age of 18. Ryan was a haemophiliac, and he became HIV positive as a result of an infected blood treatment. He was diagnosed in December 1984, the same months as his 13th birthday. In the days before effective drug treatment, an HIV infection meant developing AIDS. He faced awful prejudice as a result; even though he posed no threat to his teachers or classmates he was not allowed to return to school.
A lesser man may have moved to another part of the country, where nobody knew him and he could live in secrecy. Ryan and his mother didn’t do that. They mounted a legal battle to allow him to go back to his school. As a result, he became widely known, appearing in the media, talking about his illness and his life. He put a human face on what was a shockingly anonymous disease. Even though he was ill, he fought the prejudice that he had faced.
Ryan, you were fighting for people living with HIV and their families at an age when most guys are still too young to shave. You fought for Michael, and you fought for me, and you didn’t even know us.