Northwest Arkansas’ ‘AIDS Angel’ comes under scrutiny after book publication

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ROGERS, Arche. (KNWA / KFTA) – A local woman known as the “Angel of AIDS” is now under scrutiny for how many people she is said to have helped during the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s.

Ruth Coker Burks is originally from Hot Springs but now lives in Rogers. She recently wrote a book called All the young men where she tells about her work during the AIDS epidemic. The book has gained international attention, but also has a growing number of reviews.

Burks and her lawyer declined to come on camera for an interview, but in a 2020 interview with KNWA / FOX24, she recalled the years she spent comforting nearly 100 men with helpers left to die on their own,
bury them in a Hot Springs cemetery that belonged to his family.

“I started getting phone calls after that… and more phone calls… and more phone calls,” she said.

Burks now faces accusations from a few men she has worked with in the past while defending people with AIDS and HIV. One of the men told NBC Today that 80% of the book is a lie. ranging from her involvement in certain events to the number of men with AIDS she said she helped and buried over the years.

“It’s got to the point now, it’s almost opened up the stigma of HIV and AIDS in Hot Springs,” her old friend, Tim Looper, told NBC News.

Burks says her intentions behind sharing her story through the book were to do the opposite of what she is accused of now.

No matter what you have, you should always love that person and take care of that person.

RUTH COKER BURKS

Additionally, she is asked about a fundraiser someone started for her years ago.
A GoFundMe was created to place a monument in Hot Springs Cemetery in honor of those she has buried. However, the monument has not yet been erected.

Toni Long is Burks’ lawyer. She made a statement to KNWA / FOX24 in response to the accusations.

There is no doubt that Ruth did these heroic things in the ’80s and’ 90s while caring for people dying of AIDS and HIV. We find it curious and hurtful that Ruth has become the target of attacks and unfounded innuendo now after telling her story openly for so many years and after the publication of her book, which shed light on what Hot was. Springs at this time. We wonder if it is because of jealousy because it attracts international attention or because of the embarrassment about how people living with AIDS were treated during this unfortunate time in our history, not only in Hot Springs, but across our country. Fortunately, attitudes have changed dramatically since then, but some may not like the way Ruth’s story reflects their past behavior.

TONI LONG, LAWYER FOR RUTH COKER BURKS

Long says she and Burks made a down payment on this monument in Hot Springs Cemetery. She said they had also addressed GoFundMe’s concerns and offered to work with the family who had organized it to put a memorial in this cemetery as well.

To see the full story on Burks and the NBC Today accusations, click here.


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