While the Senate is working to pass a $50 billion AIDS package, North Carolina Senator Elizabeth Dole has introduced an amendment to name an HIV/AIDS relief bill after the man whose seat she currently holds, the late Jesse Helms. The tribute is not without its sticking points: to say Senator Helms was not a friend to AIDS awareness and prevention is an understatement tied with a big, red ribbon.
Here are the Greatest Hits of Helms's record on AIDS:
- "There is not one single case of AIDS in this country that cannot be traced in origin to sodomy." (1988)
- Seven activists from ACT UP put a huge condom on Helms's home with a sign reading, "Helms Is Deadlier Than a Virus."(1991)
That's not all. To see the rest and what else the Senate is doing on AIDS this week,
- When expressing dissent at refunding the Ryan White Act: The government should spend less on people with AIDS because they got sick due to their "deliberate, disgusting, revolting conduct." (1995)
- Later, softening his position on funding AIDS relief in Africa, he countered that the case was not the same for American gays beause homosexuality "is the primary cause of the doubling and redoubling of AIDS cases in the United States." (2002)
Perhaps Dole figures that the natural evolution of Helms's perspective on AIDS would now, by 2008, have swung around to full support of the prevention, research, and treatment of HIV/AIDS? The proposed Dole/Helms amendment comes as Sens. Kerry (D-MA) and Smith (R-OR) are trying to repeal the 1987 ban of HIV positive travelers to the US. The measure, which contains $50 billion to fight AIDS in poor areas. The measure is expected to pass this week.
Is Dole's attempt to include Helms in the AIDS measure a fitting tribute, or does it make a mockery of AIDS activism and progress?