Who Is Jesse Helms?
In his speech, Vito specifically mentions Senator Jesse Helms, “If I’m dying from anything, I’m dying from Jesse Helms.” Helms was one of the chief architects of AIDS-related stigma in the U.S. He fought against federal spending on HIV research, treatment, or prevention. He once said, referring to homosexuals, “it’s their deliberate, disgusting, revolting conduct that is responsible for the disease… There is not one single case of AIDS in this country that cannot be traced in origin to sodomy.”
Thanks to the efforts of the Irish musician and AIDS activist Bono, Helms had a change of heart. In 1996 Helms wrote an article in The Washington Post calling for an additional $500 million in aid money — to be matched by private contributions — for the purpose of preventing pregnant women overseas, mostly in Africa, from transmitting the AIDS virus to their children.
On September 5th, 1991, activists put a giant condom over Jesse Helms’ house.