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Stephen Pieter, the individual who underwent a transformative shift in AIDS perspectives during a single interview, passes away at age 70.


[Deep into the AIDS crisis in October 1985, a prominent Los Angeles minister named Stephen Pieters embarked on a daring television interview with the Pentecostal televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker. Despite the reservations of his friends, who feared it would harm his reputation as a liberal gay activist preacher, Rev. Pieters saw it as an opportunity to shift public perceptions about AIDS.

The interview almost didn’t happen, as Bakker’s team initially canceled it after offering plane tickets to Rev. Pieters. However, an agreement was eventually reached for a satellite link, allowing Rev. Pieters to discuss AIDS and spirituality before an unlikely audience.

To his surprise, Bakker showed empathy from the beginning, asking about Rev. Pieters’s journey to coming out and addressing the public’s misunderstandings and fears surrounding AIDS. The exchange highlighted the discrimination and stigma faced by AIDS patients, with Rev. Pieters recounting instances where people were afraid to even breathe the same air or share a glass with him.

At the end of the interview, Bakker made a powerful statement, lamenting the fear of Christians and urging them to embrace and support AIDS patients. The audience applauded, but the religious right denounced Bakker for her outreach to the LGBTQ+ community.

The interview had a profound impact, not only on Rev. Pieters but on many viewers as well. It challenged the belief that all evangelicals were against gays and lesbians and inspired hope for those struggling with their identity and faith. Over the years, Rev. Pieters encountered numerous individuals who credited the interview with saving their lives or helping them accept their sexuality.

Rev. Pieters’s own battle with AIDS became a source of hope and medical insight. He participated in a groundbreaking trial for an anti-viral drug, offering valuable information about antiretroviral therapy, which became the standard treatment for HIV. Despite his health struggles, Rev. Pieters continued his advocacy work and became a prominent figure in the AIDS ministry.

The impact of the interview resurfaced in recent years with the release of the film “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” and the musical “Tammy Faye,” highlighting the pivotal role of the interview scene.

Rev. Pieters passed away at the age of 70 from an infection. Although he never met Tammy Faye Bakker in person, he formed a friendship with her son, Jay, who shared stories of his mother’s surprising support for the LGBTQ+ community.

Rev. Pieters’s legacy lives on, as his interview continues to inspire and educate generations about the importance of acceptance, compassion, and understanding in the face of adversity.


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