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“The only thing necessary for these diseases to the triumph is for good people and governments to do nothing.”



Helms "Ashamed" Over Role in AIDS Fight
Friday, 22 February 2002

WASHINGTON -- In spite of -- or perhaps, because of -- his long-standing and frequently vehement opposition to increased funding for HIV prevention and AIDS treatment, Sen. Jesse Helms said on Wednesday he was ashamed he had not done more to fight the worldwide epidemic.

"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.

The statement is extraordinary given the fierce opposition and scorn with which the North Carolina Senator has treated requests for government assistance in fighting the epidemic over the course of his career.

The Human Rights Campaign's David Smith said Helms comments were "intriguing, coming from an individual who has done more to ensure that the disease has gone unchecked and done more harm to people with AIDS than any other person."


As recently as 1995, Helms tried to kill the reauthorization of the Ryan White Care Act, arguing against AIDS funding increases proposed by then President Clinton.

The government, he said, should spend less money on people with AIDS because they got sick as a result of "deliberate, disgusting, revolting conduct... We've got to have some common sense about a disease transmitted by people deliberately engaging in unnatural acts," Helms told The New York Times.

Helms made no mention of gay people in his comments Wednesday, though he did say, "There is no substitute for the joy brought by strong and healthy marriages. We must not hesitate to share this truth" with people around the world, he said.

Helms was adressing the Prescription for Hope conference, organized by Samaritan's Purse, a world relief charity led by Billy Graham's son, Franklin Graham. The group calls AIDS a disease of "Biblical proportions" that requires a more unified response from the world's evangelical Christian community.


Janet Museveni, wife of Uganda President Yoweri Museveni, also spoke to the group and received praise from Helms for her anti-HIV campaign based on "biblical values and sexual purity." Citing First Lady Museveni's efforts, Helms said, "I'm ashamed I've done so little."

Not surprisingly, Helms ignored Uganda's far more successful efforts to combat the spread of HIV though its youth-targeted sex-education and condom distribution programs that have proven to be models for resource challenged countries across the developing world.

Uganda's aggressive prevention efforts have helped keep its infection rates among the lowest in Africa.

-- Editor