New Haven AIDS activist dies


NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Elsie Cofield was a wife, mother, teacher, and AIDS activist. After teaching for 40 years, Elsie thought she would retire. Soon after, she found another calling in life.

“Rather than saying accept the things shouldn’t change she would change the things she couldn’t accept,” said Curtissa Cofield, Elsie’s daughter.

Elsie opened the AIDS Interfaith Network in 1987. As AIDS was becoming a major health concern, Elsie fond compassion for patients who were being treated as outcasts and threats to society.

“It was at a time when AIDS was sort-of, it was an unknown, and especially in the black community and in the black church. There was fear,” said Curtissa.

For more than three decades Elsie dedicated her life to comforting AIDS patients. Her family says she helped hundreds of people through outreach and programs at her building on Chapel Street.

In 1990, the City of New Haven named a street after her. In 2005, she was awarded the Gandhi, King, Ikeda Legacy of Building Peace Award, a national recognition for her efforts.

“My mom never put herself first. She didn’t do the work for, because of her ego or ambition,” said Curtissa. “She would have done it without being paid, and a lot of times she wasn’t paid to do the work. Her, she expected to get her reward in heaven.”

Elsie Cofield’s body will lie in repose at New Haven City Hall on Friday March 25 from 4:00-7:00 pm. Governor Malloy, Senator Blumenthal, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, and New Haven Mayor Toni Harp will speak starting at 4:45 pm.

Funeral services will be held at the church on Saturday, March 26th from 10-1 pm followed by burial in Beaverdale Cemetery.

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