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Panel Discussion on HIV in the News and Meeting Jeanne White-Ginder (Ryan White's Mother)

By Justin B. Terry-Smith

June 30, 2017

I was invited to speak on a panel called, "HIV in the News" by Philadelphia FIGHT Community Health Centers for their End AIDS: The HIV Prevention and Outreach Summit during AIDS Education Month. I found that it was very informative because there were different prospectives on the panel. Cherri Gregg who is a reporter for KYW Newsradio and Christopher "Flood The Drummer" Norris CEO of Techbook Online were also on the panel, and from Philadelphia FIGHT the moderator was good friend and colleague, Chip Lewis. There were several questions that were fired at the panel. Sensationalism played a big part of the conversation between the panelists. I came from the place of making sure we as people who put news out on HIV put it out for the right reasons. The opinion was very mixed. Also, the story of Charlie Sheen came up and I said it was both good and bad. With Charlie coming out (forcibly) of the HIV closet there was a spike in HIV testing. But then as he became more vocal it became a shit storm, especially with him and his crazy doctor. All in all, I loved the panel and we may have had different opinions on some issues but we all respected each other because we know what an important role we play in the HIV realm.

HIV in the News panel

I wanted to not only focus on the panel, but also check on other things that the summit had to offer. I walked about a looked at the portion of the AIDS Quilt that they had. It seems to not matter what part, where or when I see a portion of the quilt, it touches me and sometimes I cry. It sometimes puts my own mortality in perspective. Sometimes it makes me wonder if I will have a panel someday. Of course, what I would like is there to be a cure for HIV and I live long enough to not only see it but take it. A lot of us who work in the world of HIV wouldn't know what to do next if there was a cure but until we get to zero infections we still have a lot of work ahead of us.

Another highlight was meeting Ryan White's mother, Jeanne White-Ginder. I had never formally met her but I had always wanted to. I have heard her speak on some occasions. Every time she speaks at an event she plays a video and it always touches me. It is a video of her son Ryan White and the late Michael Jackson's song, "Gone to Soon."

Jeanne White-Ginder and Justin B. Terry-Smith

Ryan White was the poster child for AIDS when he challenged his local school when they banned him from going to school after his diagnosis was widely known. Important dates on White's activism and legal battles are:

  • June 30: Superintendent James O. Smith denies White admittance to school.
  • Aug. 26: First day of school. White is allowed to listen to his classes via telephone.
  • Oct. 2: School principal upholds decision to prohibit White.
  • Nov. 25: Indiana Department of Education rules that White must be admitted.
  • Dec. 17: The school board votes 7-0 to appeal the ruling.
  • Feb. 6: Indiana DOE again rules White can attend school, after inspection by Howard County health officers.
  • Feb. 13: Howard County health officer determines White is fit for school.
  • Feb. 19: Howard County judge refuses to issue an injunction against White.
  • Feb. 21: White returns to school. A different judge grants a restraining order that afternoon to again bar him.
  • Mar. 2: White's opponents hold an auction in the school gymnasium to raise money to keep White out.
  • April 9: White's case is presented in Circuit Court.
  • April 10: Circuit Court Judge Jack R. O'Neill dissolves restraining order. White returns to school.
  • July 18: Indiana Court of Appeals declines to hear any further appeals.

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Justin at the END AIDS: The HIV Prevention and Outreach Summit in Philadelphia
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Justin's HIV Journal

Justin B. Terry-Smith

Justin B. Terry-Smith

Justin B. Terry-Smith, M.P.H., may be one of the most public African Americans living with HIV: He has his own website, and he's even on YouTube. He is a noted HIV and gay civil rights activist and the creator of "Justin's HIV Journal," a popular blog in which he shares his trials and tribulations of living with HIV. A U.S. Air Force veteran, Justin resides in Laurel, Maryland, with his husband, Dr. Philip Terry-Smith, and their son, Lundyn. Presently, Justin is working toward earning his doctorate in public health. He welcomes your questions.
(Photo credit: Don Harris)

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