Late senator was a nemesis of gays
Lisa Zagaroli, McClatchy Newspapers
Published: Jul 17, 2008 12:30 AM
Modified: Jul 17, 2008 05:02 AM
WASHINGTON - Former Sen. Jesse Helms might have had a personal evolution on AIDS policy, but the journey wasn't enough to stop protests when his successor tried to name a global AIDS relief bill after him.
Sen. Elizabeth Dole, a Salisbury Republican, introduced an amendment to add Helms, who died July 4, to the title of a $50 billion bill considered Wednesday in the Senate. Her measure never came up for a vote.
Helms, a deeply conservative Republican from Raleigh, was the frequent nemesis of gay activists. "There is not one single case of AIDS in this country that cannot be traced in origin to sodomy," he once said.
He changed his view on foreign relief programs late in his Senate career and teamed with Irish rock star Bono to help populations suffering from the disease overseas. "Senator Helms played a critical role in moving the U.S. into a position where it's devoting substantial resources to provide aid to those in need in Africa," Dole's spokesman Wes Climer said.
But the legislation was already named after two lawmakers who fought the spread of AIDS, former Reps. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., and Tom Lantos, D-Calif.
A spokesman for the Global AIDS Alliance said Dole's attempt to honor Helms was inappropriate. "There are aspects of his legacy that are very negative when it comes to HIV prevention," David Bryden said. "It is true that Helms toward the very end of his career started to show more compassion, particularly toward mothers and children affected by this disease. But we're still dealing with a legacy of Senator Helms when it comes to the HIV epidemic amongst injecting drug users."