Helms Says Recent Statements on AIDS Applied Only to Africa, Not Domestic Programs
Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) yesterday said that his recent statement that he was "ashamed" at not having done more to fight the AIDS epidemic applied only to Africa, not to "domestic AIDS issues involving homosexuals," the Winston-Salem Journal reports. In an interview with the Journal, Helms was "adamant" that he did not recant past statements that government spending on domestic AIDS programs is excessive or his criticism of homosexuality (Begos/Railey, Winston-Salem Journal, 3/6). Helms -- who has previously clashed with gay AIDS activists over AIDS funding and statements he made blaming homosexuals for the spread of HIV -- told participants two weeks ago at a conference sponsored by Samaritan's Purse, a Christian relief group headed by Rev. Franklin Graham, that he had been "too lax too long" on HIV/AIDS. He vowed to keep AIDS on his agenda for the rest of his term (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/21). At the conference, Helms added, "You can't avoid the seriousness of HIV/AIDS. Whether it be in Africa or in the United States, the treachery is the same. And the treachery is in ignoring it." But yesterday, Helms "drew a distinction" between the two areas, saying that if his speech had applied to domestic programs helping gay AIDS patients, "I would have said so. That conference was about AIDS in Africa." Helms added that he would "make myself sick" if he changed his views on homosexuality and called his previous position that too much is spent on AIDS research "reasonable." However, Helms again yesterday "vowed" to help fight AIDS in Africa, saying that he was "groping for ideas about how we can get more and more people participating." In response, North Carolina gay-rights activist Shelby Nichols called Helms' talk of helping Africa a "cop-out," saying, "Africa would not have the problems they have if these men like Jesse Helms would have voted for research. ... But they wouldn't do it, because they'd have been helping gay men" (Winston-Salem Journal, 3/6).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.