In 1985, the Rev. A. Stephen Pieters spoke to Tammy Faye Bakker on her Praise The Lord (PLT) network about his homosexuality and AIDS diagnosis. He spoke candidly to Bakker and her mostly conservative Christian audience, creating a watershed moment that has been praised for broadening Christians’ understanding of AIDS and LGBTQ+ people. Pieters, who died in July at age 70, looked back on this moment and its impact on his life in Love Is Greater Than AIDS (Rowman & Littlefield, Apr.), a book he finished just before his death.

The 1985 interview catapulted Pieters into fame, and he went on to become one of the most recognizable Christian AIDS activists in the world. The interview was featured in the 2021 film The Eyes of Tammy Faye, starring Jessica Chastain as the eponymous lead. Chastain told Entertainment Weekly she believed Pieters’ 1985 interview “saved lives.” Julie Kirsch, senior v-p and publisher at Rowman & Littlefield, agrees, saying Rev. Pieters’ work “changed how many religious communities, including many conservative and evangelical Christians, viewed AIDS and AIDS ministries.”

Chi Rho Press—a small LGBT Christian publishing house—published Pieters’ first book, Im Still Dancing, in 1991. It collected his articles and other writings on living with AIDS, but Love is Greater Than AIDS explores Pieters’ life before and after the Bakker interview, including his experiences as patient one in the now-infamous trial of suramin—the first HIV/AIDS antiviral. Pieters was one of just two survivors of the drug trial.

“AIDS is 40 years old, and we have to have recorded histories of what happened,” says Richard Brown, senior executive editor at R&L. “As the years go by there will be fewer and fewer people who were on the front lines of AIDS and can tell their stories.”

Also in the book, Pieters chronicles his struggles with alcohol and drug addiction, as well as his path to ministry. It was through a suggestion from a friend in a gay-friendly addiction recovery group that Pieters started attending the Good Shepherd Parish Metropolitan Community Church (GSPMCC), which had a largely gay and lesbian congregation. His experiences there inspired him to enroll in McCormick Theological Seminary, from which he graduated in 1979. Later that year, he became pastor of Hartford’s Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) and one of the community’s few openly gay leaders.

In 1982 Pieters began noticing AIDS (then called GRID) symptoms; he was diagnosed with the disease that year, and two years later with stage four lymphoma and Kaposi sarcoma. Though he was told he wouldn’t live to see 1985, Pieters survived, and spent decades advocating for AIDS patients and public awareness. In 1997 he was appointed MCC’s first AIDS Ministry Field Director. Soon after he became a founding board member of the AIDS National Interfaith Network. And in 2019, his work in AIDS ministry became a part of the LGBT collection at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

Brown believes Love Is Greater Than AIDS is “the best single account of what was going on in that critical time.” And Kirsch notes that his commitment to hope as well as a firm belief in God may inspire generations to come. “Rev. Pieters demonstrated incredible courage and strength throughout his life, and he credited that to his deep and abiding Christian faith,” she says. “Regardless of their theological convictions, readers will see how one person’s faith, despite all odds, ultimately moves mountains.”