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As I follow the outrageous rumors and disturbing behavior surrounding health care reform, I am reminded of an earlier health crisis in this country. The outbreak of the AIDS virus in the 1980s created similar behavior among those who listened to the fear-mongers exploiting the crisis to advance their political and ideological agendas.
One of the victims of that hysteria was a young boy from Kokomo, Ind. named Ryan White. He acquired the AIDS virus through a blood transfusion he received to treat his hemophilia. When his diagnosis was made public, Ryan and his family were shunned, vilified and threatened. Classmates refused to attend the same school. Customers dropped his newspaper route. The White family fled their home in Kokomo after someone so filled with hate and fear fired a bullet through their living room window.
Young Ryan and his family moved to the town of Cicero, just 50 miles south of Kokomo. On his first day of school the principal, superintendent of schools and a number of students greeted Ryan with outstretched hands. It was a powerful gesture of reason and compassion. The news swept the country and began to calm the hysteria.
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