Hot Springs Archives - StoryCorps
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Jim Harwood and Ruth Coker Burks

When the AIDS epidemic hit Arkansas in the early 1980s, Ruth Coker Burks was just a young mother in her early twenties.

She didn’t have any medical training, but she took it upon herself to care for AIDS patients who were abandoned by their families and the medical professionals who feared the disease.

Some families, though, were different.

At StoryCorps, Ruth sat down with her friend Jim Harwood, one father who stayed by his son’s side.

They remember his son, Raymond, and what the early days of the AIDS crisis were like.

Listen to Ruth’s interview with Paul Wineland, the partner of another AIDS patient she cared for during this time.

Ruth Coker Burks and Paul Wineland

Ruth Coker Burks was in her early 20s and raising a small child when the AIDS epidemic hit Arkansas, her home state.

Although she had no formal medical training, Ruth took it upon herself to care for AIDS patients who were abandoned by their families and medical professionals who feared the disease.

Ruth estimates that she has cared for nearly 1000 people since the 1980s. One of those people was Paul Wineland’s partner.

At StoryCorps Ruth told Paul about how she got started after visiting a friend at a hospital where one of the state’s early AIDS patient was dying.

Listen to Ruth’s interview with Jim Harwood, the father of another AIDS patient she cared for during this time.

Originally aired December 5, 2014, on NPR’s Morning Edition.