Community, local leaders celebrate Ryan White’s legacy

Posted by: Devan Strebing  | Thursday, August 31, 2017

STATEHOUSE (Aug. 31, 2017) — State Rep. Tony Cook (R-Cicero) and local and state leaders joined the staff and students of Hamilton Heights Middle School today in commemorating the 30th anniversary of Ryan White’s first day as a student at Hamilton Heights High School.

The Hamilton Heights High School Principal at that time, Tony Cook, Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Jerome Adams and HIV Prevention Director John Nichols all spoke at the event.

“Celebrating Ryan’s life is a learning and growing experience for the community and students,” Cook said. “Going back to school was so important to Ryan even though he knew he didn’t have a lot of time left. His classmates were able to see how important it was for him to be in a normal classroom, to be a normal student. It’s wonderful to see our community and students continue to support and lift others up.”

At the age of 13, White received a tainted blood transfusion he received to treat his hemophilia and was infected with AIDS. At that time, information about the disease was unknown, and his story and the challenges he faced attracted the national spotlight. White died on April 8, 1990, just days before his high school graduation. 

The “Remembering Ryan” program brought leaders, students, faculty and alumni from White’s class to celebrate the day he entered the school on Aug. 31, 1987.

“Ryan White taught us about courage, acceptance and perseverance,” said Indiana State Health Commissioner Jerome Adams, M.D., M.P.H. “While medical advances have made HIV a chronic disease that can be managed with medications, we must continue to honor Ryan’s legacy and promote research and education that ultimately end HIV and the stigma it still carries.”

White’s mother, Jeanne White-Ginder, has since become an HIV/AIDS activist. She successfully pushed for the enactment of the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act, which provides assistance to uninsured or underinsured individuals who have AIDS, was named in honor of Ryan in 1990 and was reauthorized in 2013. White-Ginder speaks regularly to audiences nationwide about her experience and the AIDS epidemic.

There is also a Ryan White Room at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. Visit for more of Ryan’s story.

“It’s my hope that this celebration of Ryan White's life, 30 years after he came to Hamilton Heights, has inspired our students, staff, and community to take on the challenges of our day with the same courage, trust in education, and compassion towards others that his classmates demonstrated for us,” Hamilton Heights Middle School Principal Bret Bailey said. “Ultimately, our goal has been to take time to remember Ryan and the impact he had on our school, community and world." 

According to the Indiana State Department of Health, the only way to know if you are infected with HIV is to be tested. Many people who are infected with HIV do not have any symptoms at all for 10 years or more. No cure currently exists for HIV, but HIV can be controlled with proper medical care. Today, someone diagnosed with HIV and treated before the disease is advanced can have a nearly normal life expectancy.


State Rep. Tony Cook (R-Cicero) represents House District 32, which includes all of Tipton County and portions of Hamilton, Madison, Delaware, Howard and Grant counties.

A high-resolution photo of Cook can be downloaded by clicking here.



Attached and below:  (From left to right) Hamilton Heights Middle School Vice Principal Corey Kiger, State Rep. Tony Cook, HIV Prevention Director John Nichols, Hamilton Heights Middle School Principal Bret Bailey, Athletic Supervisor Dan Smith, Department Head of Social Studies and teacher Jeff Beechler, Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Jerome Adams, Hamilton Heights School Board member Doug Ozolins and former faculty member Gary Perkins today at Hamilton Heights Middle School commemorate the 30th anniversary of Ryan White’s first day as a student at Hamilton Heights High School. The “Remembering Ryan” program brought leaders, students, faculty and alumni from White’s class together to remember and celebrate his life and legacy.