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Utah doctor, a former CDC director at center of Ryan White AIDS controversy, dies at 89

It was the mid-1980s and fear of catching AIDS was gripping the country when young Ryan White, a hemophiliac in Indiana with HIV, petitioned to be allowed to continue attending his public school.

Then-President Ronald Reagan and the Republican-controlled Senate favored keeping him out. Some newspapers carried opinion pieces reinforcing that position (a Washington Post op-ed headline screamed: “Worry About the Survival of Society First, Then AIDS Victims' Rights”). But medical professionals could find no instance of HIV transmission through casual contact — a bite, a kiss, a cough.

It fell to Utahn James O.