Ryan White was an American teenager who became an advocate for AIDS research after contracting AIDS from a contaminated routine blood treatment for his hemophilia. Ryan’s case was a watershed moment for the HIV/AIDS community, shifting public perceptions, battling stigma and educating people about HIV/AIDS. Despite doctors’ predictions he would survive 6 months, Ryan White lived on for five years and served as a spokesperson for HIV/AIDS awareness, dying in 1990 just before his high school graduation.
The Ryan White bill was created in Ryan’s name to fund essential programs and support services for people with HIV/AIDS. As a lead agency, Heart of Florida United Way annually receives more than $2 million from the Florida Department of Health to fund patient care and support provided through a network of eight AIDS organizations and more than 200 service providers.
According to Enid Devine, Director of the Ryan White Part B/GR program with Heart of Florida United Way, the initiative plays a pivotal role in Central Florida.
“Florida is the highest nationally for newly diagnosed HIV/AIDS cases,” said Devine. “Particularly in people 50 years old and older, infection rates are growing at an alarming rate.”
That’s why the Ryan White program, beyond providing underserved people with medical care, case management, and food baskets, also supports awareness and prevention events like National HIV Testing Day on June 27.
Heart of Florida United Way – in partnership with the Florida Department of Health in Orange County, Walgreens, Miracle of Love, The LGBT Center of Central Florida, Hope and Help, and the Community Food Outreach Center – is offering free and confidential testing at mobile sites throughout Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties. If the results are positive, event staffers will connect individuals with essential resources, including assistance with basic needs.
Heart of Florida United Way served more than 4,600 people last year through the Ryan White Part B/GR program. Working as part of the Central Florida Aids Planning Consortium, Heart of Florida United Way’s Ryan White Part B/GR program has worked to decrease the numbers of people contracting HIV/AIDS and increased public awareness about the disease.
“Being diagnosed doesn’t mean what it did 10 years ago,” said Devine. “With an early diagnosis and appropriate treatment, people with HIV/AIDS can still enjoy a rich and fulfilling life with their loved ones. But it’s so important to get tested so you can get the care you need.”
For more information about the Ryan White Part B/GR program, please visit our website or, if in need of assistance, please call our free Information & Referral Helpline 2-1-1.
For information about HIV Testing Day and testing site locations, please visit the Central Florida AIDS Planning Consortium website.