November 25, 1986: Ryan Thomas, a 5-year-old Atascadero kindergartner infected with the AIDS virus, was readmitted to school after the ACLU/SC intervened. The boy scuffled with another student and was kicked out of school by administrators afraid he would transmit AIDS to his classmates.
But a court found that five years after AIDS was first identified in the U.S., medical evidence showed "there is really nothing to fear from this child." The ACLU/SC Open Forum called it the first federal decision allowing children with HIV/AIDS to attend school. Ryan Thomas died on Thanksgiving Day in 1991.
The ACLU continues to fight the stigma of HIV status and protect the privacy of people with HIV/AIDS. We also are working to expand treatment in jails, nursing homes and other facilities where people with the virus do not have equal access. An estimated 1 million Americans live with HIV/AIDS, and as many as 280,000 people with the virus may not know they are infected, according to evidence cited in a 2003 report by the ACLU AIDS Project. Click here to read the report (pdf).
Photo: Ryan Thomas with his father, Robin, in 1986.