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Jesse Helms and AIDS


I’m at an age when moments of failed memory (aka senior moments) are common, but I’m pretty sure I remember this one right. Jesse Helms was aware that HIV-positive women often passed on the virus to their children during pregnancy, but that the transmission could be prevented most all the time by existing medication. It made sense, therefore, to routinely test pregnant women so that their babies could be saved. However, others leaders fought such testing, on the grounds that the “privacy” of the (possibly) HIV-positive women had to be protected at all costs. This made no sense to Helms, and one night, when the relevant bill was in conference, he quietly added a testing requirement to the legislation. Nobody noticed, it became law, he never talked about it.

I suspect he saved lots of lives.


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