Reverend Steven A. Pieters, one of America’s longest HIV survivors, whose inspiring story is at the heart of the films The Eyes of Tammy Faye, has died at age 71 after a long fight with several cancers.
Jessica Chastain, who played Tammy Faye in the 2021 feature, shared a moving video highlighting Pieters’ many accomplishments.
Below is the historic clip of Pieters appearing on Tammy Faye’s show:
Steve Pieters was born on August 2nd, 1952 in Lawrence, Massachusetts. He grew up on the campus of Phillips Academy, Andover, where his father worked as a math teacher and varsity wrestling coach. Growing up, Christianity was significant in Steve’s life with several of his family members being involved in the church.
In April 1982, Steve was diagnosed with AIDS. He nearly died, and his brushes with death continued on and off for decades. In 1984, he was given eight months to live; but Steve believed God was greater than AIDS. He clung to life. Steve later became one of the early recipients of suramin, the first antiviral tested against HIV. Steve improved on the drug, but most suramin recipients did not, and the trail was soon cancelled. While still recovering from the suramin treatment, Steve was invited to be a guest on the TV show of renowned televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker. Steve’s appearance moved Tammy Faye to tears, and electrified her audience. To this day, Steve’s conversation with Tammy Faye is regarded as one of the very first media events that depicted people with AIDS as warm and loving human beings, rather than monsters.
The historic clip was recreated in the Oscar-winning film, with Pieters played by Randy Havens:
It’s wonderful that Reverend Pieters lived long enough to see his friend Tammy Faye get the recognition she deserved for following her heart and her faith.
And spending time with Jessica Chastain and watching her win an Oscar had him beaming!
Rest in Power, Reverend Pieters! Thank you for all you did to reduce HIV stigma and spread love, light, and joy in the world!
Images: Kevin Lian / Image Press Agency / Avalon (Pieters) sb / Avalon (with Chastain)