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AIDS Bigot to Get HIV-Research Funding Amendment Tribute?

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?


Join The Conversation
True-Song True-Song 8 years
I wonder if he was accused of flip flopping...
rabidmoon rabidmoon 8 years
AIDS is a sore spot for me. I knew two guys in high school who lost out to this disease, one of whom I loved a great deal and miss terribly. To this day, the fact that HOW someone got a disease could be used as a justification for ignoring the fact they had it, disgusted me. And further, that the disease itself was spread by multiple causes, yet through politicians like this retained a dangerous level of stigma, disgusted me even more. I know Helms had "come around" somewhat before he died, and that is admirable on its own, but its a bit too little to warrant these sort of accolades. doesn't change the fact that: 1)He was still a mean-spirited, judgemental, closed-minded old jack*ss. Truth. 2)Generations to come will not know any better and assume he was some sort of AIDS champion, which is pretty damn laughable. Or scary. Or both. 3)She is probably doing this for her own notoriety or to try to give the Repubs some cred on this issue as much as anything. (Which is disgusting but hardly shocking.) When it comes to AIDS, Helms is not a name that comes to mind except in the most negative and frustrating light. If we have to slap a name on it, then Ryan White deserves this far, far more. Its people like Helms that made it harder on kids who were unfortunate enough to have the disease they never asked for. Grr.
em113 em113 8 years
This is an insult to every AIDS activist. I can't believe she would actually propose such a thing.
raciccarone raciccarone 8 years
I can see why it was so hard to find someone to whom to dedicate this bill. It's impossible to find an organization or an individual who helped stop the spread of AIDS/HIV in America.
em1282 em1282 8 years
Eeesh. I agree with stephley about Dole. IMO, it's beyond disrespectful.
KrisSugar KrisSugar 8 years
ditto to that Stephley. Bad choice on Dole's part. she really should have looked for another name to attach to this!
stephley stephley 8 years
Yeah, I'm not sure how I feel: on the one hand, you've got the catching flies with honey thing and wanting to give the other side the benefit of a doubt, on the other hand by the time he got old, Helms had done a lot of damage to a lot of people. I definitely feel sure that I think Dole is a jerk for even bringing it up.
Jillness Jillness 8 years
No matter what he did in the end of his life, I don't think this is appropriate at all. His meeting with Bono in 2001 doesn't erase the fact that a year later 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."' There are others who have worked very hard and very long for this cause. If you are going to name the bill after someone, how about someone who did more to contribute to than hurt the battle against AIDS.
liliblu liliblu 8 years
"Should" not sjould
liliblu liliblu 8 years
Helms was a disgrace and Elizabeth Dole should be ashamed of herself. Helms would have opposed the bill, the same way he opposed food stamps, minimum wage increases, Martin Luther King Day becoming a national holiday, and reauthorization of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. He was a racist and a bigot. There sjould be no tributes to this man.
Jude-C Jude-C 8 years
Thanks, stephley--this makes a lot more sense now! :)
stephley stephley 8 years
It may not be so inappropriate. Helms wasn't going to become the poster child for political correctness toward the end of his career, but he was changing his outlook and efforts somewhat - at least in terms of Africa - and it might not hurt to honor the change for what it might mean to others like him: In 2002: "I have been too lax too long in doing something really significant about AIDS," Helms told hundreds of Christian AIDS activists gathered for a conference in Washington. "I'm not going to lay it aside on my agenda for the remaining months I have" in office... I'm so ashamed that I've done so little," Helms said." In 2001: WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U2 lead singer and activist Bono called Republican Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina a "brave and bold man" for inviting him to lunch Wednesday to discuss the African AIDS crisis. "It's an extraordinary thing, I will admit, to have Jesse Helms to throw a lunch for you," said Bono. "You know it's bad for both of our images." Bono said he was impressed that Helms "cares deeply about what is happening in Africa right now" and that "there is a move here in the Capitol to do something more historic about it. ... "I'm very humbled. I'm having my world turned upside down, and I'm surprised that people should be so generous in letting an obvious outsider in." "You'll never be an outsider. You'll always be a friend here," Helms quickly responded, shaking the singer's hand for the cameras.
bleached bleached 8 years
Maybe it's the same kind of irony the New Yorker was using
Bksuga Bksuga 8 years
is she serouis? i dont think that very proffesional to say.
UnDave35 UnDave35 8 years
I think it's inappropriate, funny in a "how could you do this" sort of way..
True-Song True-Song 8 years
I don't get it. Is she trying to be funny?
gitsie123 gitsie123 8 years
It is inappropiate because there are countless people who dedicate their lives to AIDS prevention.
lovelie lovelie 8 years
Is she trying to be ironic? I think it is a tad inappropriate.
saucymegstar saucymegstar 8 years
Maybe it's a fitting ironic tribute.
gitsie123 gitsie123 8 years
When I read this I laughed out loud because it is clear that if Jesse Helms were alive he would be outraged! I think it's funny and I thought it was going in the direction of naming a waste plant after President Bush. Maybe not...
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 8 years
I would be interested to know what Sen. Helms thought about HIV/Aids in the past five years in the way or responsibility, origin, and health services. I'm not going to say it's a good idea or bad all I know is that it’s good that the money is going to good use. If Sen. Helms did come around in his ideology he wouldn't be the first.
Jude-C Jude-C 8 years
By what tortured logic did she come to her decision to do this?
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