Broadway Cares Director and Treasurer Object to AIDS Bill Title

News   Broadway Cares Director and Treasurer Object to AIDS Bill Title A plan by Senator Elizabeth Dole (R-NC) to rename the current AIDS relief bill after the late conservative Jesse Helms has caused an uproar.

Among those offended by Dole's proposition are Tom Viola, the Executive Director of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, and Philip S. Birsh, the President and Publisher of Playbill, who also serves as the BC/EFA Treasurer.

Helms was a long-time opponent to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and research. In fact, the blog Joe.My.God has recalled many of Helms' AIDS-related comments:

  • Jesse Helms, the man who in 1987 described AIDS prevention literature as "so obscene, so revolting, I may throw up."
  • Jesse Helms, the man who in 1988 vigorously opposed the Kennedy-Hatch AIDS research bill, saying, "There is not one single case of AIDS in this country that cannot be traced in origin to sodomy."

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  • Jesse Helms, the man who in 1995 said (in opposition to refunding the Ryan White Act) that the government should spend less on people with AIDS because they got sick due to their "deliberate, disgusting, revolting conduct." In a mass e-mail BC/EFA's Viola writes, "I hope you'll give some thought to how sickeningly ironic this is. It spits on the graves of hundreds of thousands of Americans, men women and children of every race and economic background who died of AIDS, including scores of my friends. . . . Helms made institutionalized neglect, disdain and hatred government's official response and he carried the day for a long while as people I loved, knew well, casually and worked with died. . . Dole's recommendation demeans hundreds of thousands of Americans currently living with HIV/AIDS and implies that Helms' hatred for gay men and Americans of color everywhere (except in Africa where they are safely a continent away) is acceptable, even good. In Jesse Helms' world we are all dispensable, better dead. . . . It's a sad, sick and deliberate attempt to re-write history and clean-up Helms' sad legacy. His hatred goes down in history. People will refer to it for decades. Dole wants to minimize that, create plausible deniability. 'Look a Jesse Helms AIDS bill. Clearly he cared.' He did not."

    Playbill President Birsh added, "It is inconceivable that a bill would be named after a man so intolerant and divisive. As Treasurer of Broadway Cares/EFA, it is my duty to publicly object to this irrational and poorly considered pandering to the memory of a man known for his cruelty to all those who suffered with HIV/AIDS during his time in the Senate."

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    Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS is the nation's largest industry-based, nonprofit AIDS fundraising and grant-making organization. Since its founding in 1988 the organization has distributed over $130 million for services for people with AIDS, HIV or HIV-related illnesses. For more information visit www.BroadwayCares.org.