30 years ago today Ryan White passed away

Today in Indiana History, brought to you by the Indiana Historical Bureau: In 1990, 18-year-old Kokomo native Ryan White died of complications from AIDS at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis. He passed away surrounded by his family and singer Elton John. White acquired the disease through contaminated hemophilia treatments. He experienced discrimination due to his HIV-positive diagnosis and school administrators barred him from attending school in Howard County because they feared the spread of the disease through casual contact.

Eventually, the Whites moved to Cicero in Hamilton County, and Ryan enrolled at Hamilton Heights High School. There, the principal and student body president welcomed him and encouraged accurate and informative discussions about HIV/AIDS.

An obituary published by the New York Times noted that White “put the face of a child on AIDS and served as a leader for gaining greater understanding and compassion for those with the deadly disease.” 1,500 people, including First Lady Barbara Bush, Michael Jackson, and Elton John, attended his funeral at Second Presbyterian in Indianapolis and a choir from Hamilton Heights sang “That’s What Friends Are For.” Governor Evan Bayh ordered Statehouse flags to be flown at half-mast in his honor.