Post submitted by Marvell L. Terry II, HIV & AIDS Project Fellow

In the mid-1980s, Ryan White became a poster child for the AIDS epidemic. White was kicked out of his school after he was diagnosed with AIDS, which he had contracted through a blood transfusion. Even though he was only 13 years old, he fought AIDS-related discrimination in his Indiana community and educated the nation about the disease.

The fact is that many public officials cruelly denied the need for a national response to the epidemic when gay men were dying. While Ryan White’s story didn’t end the anti-gay stigma, it did spur action from policymakers who hadn’t yet stepped forward.  

Twenty-five years ago, Ryan White died of AIDS. Several months later, Congress passed the Ryan White CARE Act in his memory. Since then, the Ryan White CARE (Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency) Act has greatly enhanced the lives of those living with HIV and AIDS.

“Over the last quarter century, the Ryan White [HIV & AIDS] Program has contributed to remarkable progress for people living with [HIV & AIDS],” Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M Burwell said in a statement. “What was once a deadly disease, [HIV] is now a manageable chronic condition because of access to high quality health care and appropriate treatment.   Although we have more work to do, particularly in reaching the populations most at risk and disproportionately affected by HIV, we are committed to realizing the President’s vision of an AIDS-free generation.”

According to the National HIV and AIDS Strategy: Updated to 2020, the Ryan White HIV and AIDS Program is still a critical source for lifesaving treatment and support.  The Strategy calls for reducing new HIV infections, increasing access to care and improving health outcomes for people living with HIV, reducing HIV-related disparities and health inequities and achieving a more coordinated national response.

The Ryan White CARE Act, has given me, and so many others, the opportunity to obtain treatment and lifesaving medications at no cost. It made it possible for me to access supportive services to help with drug adherence, dental and psychosocial services, as well as food from the AIDS Service Organizations in my community.  

Since the Ryan White Care program was enacted in 1990 it has enjoyed strong bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress. HRC's legislative team worked closely with allies on Capitol Hill to pass the original CARE Act. HRC continues to fight for the highest funding levels for the program, allowing thousands to receive patient care, support services and grant funds to states.

For more information about HRC’s work to end the HIV epidemic and to secure the health and wellness of people living with HIV, visit To find a Ryan White provider in your area, visit

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