He backed the ban on HIV+ people entering the United States and slammed the government for spending money on a “disease transmitted by people deliberately engaging in unnatural acts.”
Now a Republican colleague has called on the US Senate to rename the 2008 United States Global Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Reauthorisation Act after him.
Jesse Helms died on the 4th of July, aged 86. A long serving Senator for North Carolina, he was unashamed of his homophobia.
In 1993, Helms took President Bill Clinton to task for attempting to appoint an openly gay assistant secretary at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“I’m not going to put a lesbian in a position like that,” he said. “If you want to call me a bigot, fine.”
While an outspoken opponent of AIDS research in the early days of the disease – he voted against the Ryan White AIDS Act – later he met Bono and became an advocate of combating AIDS globally.
Senator Elizabeth Dole, wife of Bob Dole, Republican Presidential candidate in 1996, proposed the Act be renamed in honour of Helms.
“That is bizarre,” Representative Barney Frank, the only out gay man in Congress, told ABC News.
“The idea that anyone would want to do that is ludicrous…I would try to think of something that would be less appropriate, but even with my disregard for convention it would be hard to do that.”
Currently titled the Tom Lantos and Henry J. Hyde United States Global Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Reauthorisation Act of 2008, it revises provisions concerning the comprehensive, five-year, global strategy to combat global HIV/AIDS.
It also: “provides that organisations, including faith-based organisations, receiving HIV/AIDS-related funds shall not be required to endorse or utilise activities or programmes to which they have a moral or religious objection, and shall not discriminated against in the solicitation or issuance of grants, contracts, or cooperative agreements for such refusal.”