U.S. Representative Ted Weiss, a Democrat from New York, holding a congressional hearing about AIDS funding in 1985. Most of the members of Congress who paid attention to AIDS issues during the early 1980s represented major cities with large gay populations.
There was, of course, considerable conservative congressional resistance to spending federal tax dollars on AIDS-related measures. For example, Republican senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina was highly critical of federal spending on AIDS education. On October 14, 1987, Helms appeared on the floor of the Senate during a debate over a federal AIDS appropriation bill to denounce a safer-sex comic book, which he thought had been federally funded, published by Gay Men’s Health Crisis of New York. A subsequent investigation revealed that no federal funds were used to support the production of the comic book; nonetheless, the Senate voted overwhelmingly to pass the Helms amendment to the AIDS appropriation bill. The Helms amendment prohibited the
use of federal tax dollars for AIDS education materials that “promote or encourage, directly or indirectly, homosexual activities.” Since 1987, Helms continued to offer his amendment to each appropriation bill. With these amendments, Helms and his conservative supporters in Congress, notably former California Republican representatives Robert Dornan and William Dannemeyer, helped limit federal funding for safer-sex education targeting gays and lesbians.