Ryan White should have turned 40 today. But he died at age 18, after a too-short and tumultuous life in which he battled HIV and the prejudice that surrounded it – as well as the somewhat unwelcome place in the spotlight his condition thrust upon him.

When White was infected with HIV from a contaminated blood treatment in 1984, AIDS was still a new disease, not widely understood and carrying great stigma. He found himself shunned by classmates and their parents – when he was finally allowed to return to school, that is. After a prolonged absence due to his illness, White was denied re-admission to school, forcing his family into a months-long legal battle with the school board. As he discussed his story with interviewers and local coverage yielded to national attention, White became a poster boy for AIDS awareness. Celebrities rallied to his cause and he became friends with luminaries from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Michael Jackson to Elton John.

When Ryan White died in 1990, those celebrities continued to support his family, turning out for the funeral – Michael Jackson was there, as well as Phil Donahue, Barbara Bush, and 1500 others. Elton John performed a special tribute to the boy who touched his heart.

The Ledger, Lakeland, Florida (12/06/11)

I felt the need to go off the normal topic just a bit today.

Well, maybe not. Perhaps Ryan White experienced the ultimate in bullying.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AzrPREXraR4&feature=related]

Carolyn is an advocate for sexual/domestic violence and assault awareness, also focusing on child sexual abuse. She is a Life Direction & Empowerment Coach, working with victims and survivors of molestation, sexual assault, domestic violence or spousal abuse, and bringing training to organizations seeking to help victims. Hennecy spent much time during October 2011, which is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, with media doing radio and television interviews. See Carolyn’s interview with Gayle Guyardo of NBC Channel 8 News Today Early Morning Show and her featured segment on the ABC Action News Emmy Award winning “Taking Action Against Domestic Violence” at orangeblossomwishes.com.

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