Dear Ryan White, wish you were here

Dear Ryan White, boy, do I wish you were still alive. Born in 1971, you’d be in your late 30s by now, like the rest of your gen-X peers, had you not died in 1990 of AIDS-related complications.

And get this: you could be healthy, happy and living well, even while living with HIV/AIDS!

That’s right, Ryan, people your age are living with the virus without a death sentence attached. And many of us who were just like you are now longtime survivors!

“They came up with a term: Disease-free. They use it on this thing called the Internet.”

Science did it. Science got a grip on AIDS, figured out a way for people like you and me to survive instead of wither away and die, like in the old days. Like when you were just a kid in need of blood transfusion, one that happened to be tainted with a virus you knew nothing about.

That virus is still among us, but it’s no longer killing people just because they acquired it. They’ve even removed that old “12-18 months life expectancy” deal, you know, the best guesstimate for anyone with HIV back in the early 80s?

Why, nowadays, life expectancy for a person with HIV/AIDS grows daily, as people like myself keep on surviving. Talk about a miracle.
Wish you were here, being one of those miracles.Wish you were here to give me some perspective on what your generation has made of the post-AIDS Panic world.

They came up with a term: Disease-free. They use it on this thing called the Internet. In fact, they’ve created a whole lexicon that didn’t exist when you died.

Disease-free. UB2. Barebacking. DDF. UB2. No bugs. No diseases whatsoever. Clean. UB2.

Wish you were to tell me how it feels hearing those words. They’ve become part of culture since you fought for a right to go to school and have a normal life while living with AIDS. As a teenage boy.

Wish you were here to tell me how this modern world makes you feel. Wish you were here to tell this modern world how it makes you feel, hearing people use the term, “disease-free.”

They listened to you once. You had the attention of the world, even royalty. Why you were world famous, Ryan White.

Wish I knew if the people who use the term “disease-free” would say that to Ryan White.

Wish you were here so they could listen to you once again.

Ryan White