Pastor Tamara Bennett reveals her first husband, Dr. Donald Curlin, died of AIDS

Pastor Tamara Bennett reveals her first husband, Dr. Donald Curlin, died of AIDS

Article By Rebecca Johnson // EEW Magazine News

In June 2000, Tamara Bennett was thrust into the role of senior pastor after her late husband, Dr. Donald Curlin, passed away.

Many did not know the story behind his transition until recently, when Bennett released a “Journeys of Faith” documentary revealing a shocking truth: he died of AIDS.

He was just 40 years old.

“Journeys of Faith” is a special project that, according to its website, shares “God's miraculous, healing, delivering, redeeming and yoke-destroying power all over the world” to increase others’ faith as they watch the stories.

The story of Bennett, pastor of This Is Pentecost (TIP) Fellowship Ministries in Sacramento, CA, is the first testimony featured. And remarkably, according to her story, she had already been married to Dr. Curlin for 13 years before discovering the devastating news of his incurable disease.

“The last five years of our life became interesting. He had gotten sick and we didn’t know what the problem was,” recounts Bennett. “We went from doctor to doctor. He was losing weight. And then one day in 1999, he was coughing so badly, he fell off the couch.”

The concerned wife called 911 and headed to the emergency room. Once there, after running tests on Dr. Curlin, an ER doctor made a startling discovery.

 “So the doctor comes in, throws his x-ray up on the board and says, ‘Well, this is AIDS,’” says Bennett.

Then, the attending physician began asking if Dr. Curlin was a drug user or if he’d had a bad blood transfusion to contract the disease.

The late Dr. Donald Curlin

The late Dr. Donald Curlin

Though the news should have been immediately alarming, Bennett, at first, remained calm because she was fully convinced that the doctor had misdiagnosed her husband, a prominent and respected minister.

After the doctor agreed to double-check, he returned with bad news. It was no doubt AIDS.

“I’m looking at my husband,” Bennett remembers, saying, “’Tell him. Tell him it’s not right. He’s got the wrong guy,’ but he didn’t say anything.”

That’s when reality set in and her spouse admitted that he did, in fact, have AIDS. But he assured his stunned wife, “Tammy, I never had an affair on you. This was something that happened before I met you.”

That assurance offered no comfort.

 “So I run to the hospital’s bathroom,” Bennett says. “I grabbed all the paper towels they had. I stuffed my face and I cried, and I screamed, and I cried. And then a still small voice— the Lord—said, ‘Cover.’ And that was it.”

Bennett believes “cover” meant God was instructing her to protect Dr. Curlin’s secret and not reveal that he had contracted AIDS, which was highly stigmatized.

“At that time, you dared not say you had it and God in heaven and earth, don’t talk about it in the church,” she states.

Despite his condition, Dr. Curlin refused to take medicine, which would have amounted to about 30 pills per day. Even as his condition deteriorated, Bennett faithfully cared for him, keeping her vows to love, honor and cherish her husband in both sickness and health.

She nursed Dr. Curlin through dementia and seizures and cared for him every day “until the day he died.”

When Dr. Curlin transitioned on June 15, 2000, it was reported that he died of "natural causes."

Having never contracted the disease herself, today, Pastor Bennett is healthy, happily married to Elder Quentin Bennett and raising their four children.

For those who look at her story and call all that happened unfair, the popular preacher disagrees. “God is so fair,” she says in her documentary, as she rejoices and cries "hallelujah" that God has given her new life and a fresh start.

“I preach every Sunday with the optimism that if He did it for me… He’ll do it again and again… because He is a God without respect of persons," she says.

Watch her riveting story below.

For more information, visit

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