Nita Pippins, a fearless activist who dedicated herself to queer people during the AIDS crisis, has died due to coronavirus
Nita Pippins, a tireless activist who dedicated herself to the LGBT+ community during the AIDS crisis, has sadly died of complications due to coronavirus.
A retired nurse, Pippins was known for her invaluable role as a ‘mother’ to countless AIDS patients who had been abandoned by their families.
She began her crusade of kindness after seeing her own son ravaged by the disease, which tragically cut his life short at 33.
Though she was initially troubled by his diagnosis and ashamed of his sexuality, she moved from Florida to New York to nurse him in the final three years of his life. During this time she grew close to his gay friends, and by the time he passed away in 1990 she was one of the community.
Her son’s death transformed her, and at the age of 60 she decided to remain in New York and dedicate herself to helping men like him.
Nita Pippins became a tireless volunteer for Miracle House, a charity that provided out-of-town families of AIDS patients with housing and support.
“She didn’t come here to be an activist. She was filling a void,” said Irwin Kroot, who knew her through her son’s partner and interviewed her for a memoir.
“She was usually with young men who were dying and was, at their request, a go-between for them and their families,” he told The New York Times.
At a time when AIDS was widely misunderstood and gay men were treated like pariahs, Pippins stepped up to become a mediator for countless families across the US.
She called on them to visit their children as they lay dying in hospital, urging them to set aside their differences before they lost their chance forever.
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Her nursing background meant she could answer their medical questions, and as a mother from a conservative Southern upbringing, she could relate to the fears of shame and ostracism tied to an AIDS diagnosis.
“At that time, you were shunned if your son died of AIDS, or you had AIDS in your family,” Ms Pippins told NY1 in 2010. “And I wanted to get together and let them know there was other people having the same problem.”
But most importantly, her work with AIDS patients was redemptive. “I needed to give back,” she told Kroot. “I needed to have something to do that made me feel better about me.”
Pippins sadly passed away on May 10 in her Manhattan nursing home.
After being present for so many people at the end of their lives, her coronavirus diagnosis meant that she tragically died alone – on Mother’s Day.