Dole proposal to name AIDS-related bill for Helms sparks outrage
Muriel Kane
Published: Wednesday July 16, 2008

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Gay activists are suffering from shock and disbelief at the prospect that a long time foe might be lionized as a hero if a Republican senator gets her wish to attach Senator Jesse Helms' name to a major bill which provides funding to fight HIV/AIDS.

On March 7, the "Tom Lantos and Henry J. Hyde United States Global Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Reauthorization Act of 2008" was introduced in the United States Senate.

The bill is named for two recently deceased former Senators, Republican Henry Hyde, who died in November 2007, and Democrat Tom Lantos, who died in February 2008. On Monday, Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-NC) submitted an amendment to add the name of Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC), who died this July 4.

The bill includes language to "authorize appropriations for the U.S. contribution to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria" and also "directs the Coordinator of United States Government Activities to Combat HIV/AIDS Globally (Coordinator) to develop a five-year strategic plan for program monitoring, operations research, and impact evaluation research of U.S. HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria programs, including mother-to-child HIV transmission."

Because of the bill's strong focus on fighting AIDS, the proposed amendment appears inappropriate to gay rights advocates. Under the heading, "Elizabeth Dole Says 'Fuck You' To Americans Who Died From AIDS," the blog Joe.My.God notes Helms' history of opposition to funding for AIDS prevention and research.

In fairness to Helms, he did become convinced before his death that he had been wrong, following conversations with Bono and Rev. Franklin Graham, and worked on legislation to fight AIDS in Africa.

However, John Aravosis of AmericaBlog emphasizes, "Helms, who was more than happy to let gay people with AIDS die during the 80s and 90s, did finally embrace the international AIDS cause, in so far as the 'victims' that interested him were 'innocent children.' But that's the only reason Helms got on board, because kids were involved and they were innocent 'victims,' as compared to the rest of those with AIDS who, according to Helms, deserved what they got. ... To name any AIDS bill, even an international one, after one of America's most infamous AIDS-haters, strikes me as beyond the pale."

The Huffington Post and Think Progress have also picked up the story.