Ruth Coker Burks, Who Cared for Early Victims of the AIDS Epidemic

Back in the ’80s, when the population of gay men was rapidly decimated by AIDS — a disease that many feared and knew little about — it was not unusual for their families to reject them, leaving them to die alone.

But one woman, Ruth Coker Burks, cared for them, stood beside them on their deathbed and made sure they were buried with basic human dignity. Decades later, a GoFundMe campaign is close to its $75,000 goal to build an AIDS memorial in Arkansas to the 43 men Burks buried by herself in her family cemetery — and to all those who died alone, unloved and unremembered.

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