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Breaking America’s Heart

Damn you, PEOPLE! We all wanted to think that those with AIDS are “different” from us. We wanted to shove them to the back of our minds, shove them to back alleys where they “belong.” I cried through the entire 24-hour journal (PEOPLE, Aug. 3). Anyone unmoved by these stories is inhuman. You’ve shattered our complacency.

Susan Strickland Canter


I just finished reading your cover story on AIDS, and the tears still continue to roll down my face. I am a health care worker in a large city hospital where we come in contact with AIDS patients every week. We are all terrified of contracting the disease and protect ourselves with every means available. But we too often ignore the fact that the AIDS carriers are human beings with feelings, a point that your article slammed home to me. I hope as I remember the people who broke my heart in your magazine that I’ll be able to bring more humanity to the people I deal with.

Vickie Delaney

Jacksonville, Fla.

I lost my brother to AIDS three months ago, and it was a very emotional experience. No one knows what a horrible, horrible death it is. No one knows about the middle-of-the-night phone calls because he was hungry and was too weak to get up. No one knows what it’s like to sit in an emergency room and watch one’s loved one cry because he knew he was not going to go home again. I am glad you have enlightened people with an inside view of the effects this disease has on both the victim and his family. No one deserves to die as my brother did.

Judith A. Gibson

Gaithersburg, Md.

I have finally finished reading the AIDS article after numerous attempts. Absolutely incredible, it is by far the best written and most informative piece I have read on the subject to date. Everyone involved in this is to be commended. I was unable to complete the article in one sitting because I was constantly moved to tears.

Jim Tracey


As a resident of Kokomo, Ind., I have followed Ryan White’s story from the beginning and was not aware of all the travesties committed against this innocent boy and his family. I had often seen Ryan out shopping and wanted to tell him how much I admired his courage. He not only dealt with this devastating disease but stood up to a town full of bigots and uncaring human beings. I pray that he may live the rest of his life in peace.

Lynne A. Kasey

Kokomo, Ind.

I cannot understand the cruelty and heartlessness imposed upon the innocent youth Ryan White and his caring mother in Kokomo, Ind. Ryan says, “I didn’t want to die there.” Frankly, I wouldn’t want to live there. Can anyone come to the defense of Kokomo?

William G. Eaton

Westminster, Md.

“Kokomo is a good town, “says Ryan’s mother, Jeanne White. “Most of our problems were caused by the same people over and over. It was just a few bad apples who wouldn’t leave us alone. I don’t hold the whole town responsible.”

To Ann, the woman in a certain town in Northern California: I think what you are doing is wrong. My heart goes out for that poor unborn child of yours. You see, I had a son born with the AIDS virus. He lived 20 months. He cried 24 hours a day, he suffered terribly, he spent most of his short life in the hospital. When he died, he was being fed through a direct line to his heart and was on four machines. To bring a new life into this world to endure this much pain—I don’t care how much love you give this child—is terribly wrong. I couldn’t have loved my son any more, but this did not ease my baby’s pain.

Lauren A. Burk

Cresson, Pa.

Mrs. Burk, who has the AIDS virus HIV-positive, her husband, Patrick, a hemophiliac, and son Dwight were profiled in the June 17, 1985 issue of PEOPLE. Both her son and husband have since died of AIDS.


Never has an article affected me as much as yours did, particularly the story about Buddy. Reflecting on that June week when he died, my biggest problem then was wondering where my 27th birthday party was going to be held. It made me realize how meaningless and trivial my problem was in comparison with poor Buddy, who I will remember every birthday I celebrate hereafter.

Lori Weiland

New York City

It is sad enough to read about the pain and suffering of people who are dying of terminal illnesses. But to add to their tragedy the fact that so many of them have been deserted by their friends and families is what seems to me to be the most horrifying aspect of their condition. Thank you, PEOPLE, for helping to raise our consciousness.

Allison Zent Applegate


Since our story was published, two of its subjects have died: Andy, a patient of Dr. Michael Gottlieb’s in Los Angeles, and Joe, whose sister Christine had come up from Houston to be with him at Cape Cod. Joe did not live to see the story in print, though he told his friends he was proud to have played a role in it. Ryan White has since received permission to take the experimental drug AZT, which he hopes will make him feel better. Another boost for Ryan was the more than 200 letters he’s received from well-wishers. “I read ’em all,” he says.—ED.