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At height of 80s AIDS pandemic this woman sat with shunned and dying men

5 March 2021 3:05 PM
Tags:
HIV
fight against HIV Aids

A woman living in Arkansas in the mid-1980s describes how she found herself thrust into the heart of the rising AIDS pandemic.

Pippa Hudson features a memoire called “All the Young Men”. It’s the story of how a young woman living in Little Rock, Arkansas in the mid-1980s found herself thrust into the heart of the rising AIDS pandemic.

Ruth Coker Burks had no medical training and no personal connection to the local gay community, says Pippa.

It was a matter of pure chance that saw her stumble upon the fact that dozens of young men in her town were dying of this strange new illness – and many of them, dying all alone, rejected by their families and shunned by even medical staff.

Pippa Hudson, Presenter - CapeTalk

As a young divorced single mother Ruth risked her own social and financial security to help these young men, when nobody else would.

She speaks to Pippa about her journey.

All the young Men is written by Ruth Coker Burks and Kevin Carr O’Leary Published by Orion, it is available in SA via Jonathan Ball and retailing at around R355.

Ruth describes how she had been visiting a friend in hospital who had cancer over a long period when one day she saw a group of nurses huddled together.

They were drawing straw to see who would go in and check on this young man and I just couldn't believe it.

Ruth Coker, Co-author - All The Young Men

Three or four of his food trays would pile up outside his day because no one would take his food into him anymore or feed him, she says.

These were the nurses that we loved so much and I could not believe what I was seeing and hearing.

Ruth Coker, Co-author - All The Young Men

So I snuck into his room.

Ruth Coker, Co-author - All The Young Men

The young man named Jimmy was in the final hours of his life and he was crying out for his mother. Ruth phoned his mother.

She said, 'I don't have a son, and don't call me back. My son died years ago,' and hung up on me.

Ruth Coker, Co-author - All The Young Men

Ruth sat with Jimmy and held his hand in the last hours of his life.

I could not let him be there alone with no one...I stayed with him for 13 hours until he took his last breath on this earth.

Ruth Coker, Co-author - All The Young Men

Listen to the moving interview with Ruth Coker in the audio below:




5 March 2021 3:05 PM
Tags:
HIV
fight against HIV Aids

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