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N.C. State Rep Brown criticized for remarks about HIV "perverted lifestyles"
  Winston-Salem Jnl
By Wesley Young
Published: January 11, 2011
For the second time in recent months, state Rep. Larry Brown is catching flak for comments that appear to target gay people.
Brown, speaking about legislative goals for the upcoming session of the N.C. General Assembly, began by discussing his support for a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to a union between one man and one woman.
Then he went on to say he believes the government shouldn't spend money to treat HIV among people "living in perverted lifestyles."
Brown drew criticism last October for an e-mail he sent to other state Republican lawmakers. After the lawmakers were told about a legislative leadership award being given to then House Speaker Joe Hackney, Brown sent his e-mail to House minority leader Paul Stam saying: "I hope all the queers are thrilled to see him. I am sure there will be a couple legislative fruitloops there in the audience."
On the HIV issue, Brown went on to say that he doesn't think the government should fund programs for adults with HIV who "caused it by the way they live."
"I'm not opposed to helping a child born with HIV or something, but I don't condone spending taxpayers' money to help people living in perverted lifestyles," said Brown, who ran unopposed in the November election to win a fourth term.
Reached by telephone Tuesday, Brown wouldn't say what he considers perverted, but did say that adults who get HIV through sexual behavior or drugs would be among those who should not be treated at government expense.
Katherine Foster, the president of AIDS Care Service in Winston-Salem, called Brown's remarks "fiscally and socially irresponsible," and said it "highlights his ignorance on this major public health issue."
"What Rep. Brown can't seem to get through his mind is that HIV disease ... affects individuals regardless of age, race and sexual orientation," Foster said. "Without funding for HIV, the disease is at risk for reaching pandemic levels, just as it has in countries that do not provide government funding for HIV-AIDS."
Wanda Moss, a Winston-Salem woman who contracted AIDS in a monogamous, heterosexual relationship, said she'd like to talk with Brown, who she believes may be "speaking out of fear."
"I am not a perverted person," she said. "There is a misconception and part of that lingers from fear of homosexuality. In the beginning stages of HIV that was the predominant way of spreading, but as men with men and women started infecting women, it started spreading in a different manner - in what the woman may have thought was an exclusive relationship. Any human being who is engaging in any sexual activity is at risk."
Brown said he's not trying to say how people should lead their lives, but that it is a higher priority to treat people who have diseases "with no fault of their own." He said he doesn't oppose with HIV or AIDS getting treatment, but believes such treatment shouldn't be paid for by the government.
"I think people with HIV have legitimate fears and probably need support, but when it comes down to priorities, my priorities would be in other directions," he said.
Asked how he would feel about the government paying for diseases caused by smoking, Brown said he felt the same as for HIV because smokers "choose to do that on their own."
Rep. Dale Folwell, a Winston-Salem lawmaker who represents the 74th District in the N.C. House, declined to discuss Brown's remarks about HIV.
"I don't have any comment on that," said Folwell, who is slated to be the new speaker pro tem when the House convenes Jan. 26. "I just work on the things that I work on, and that takes all I have."
Bob Whitwam, the interim director of health in Forsyth County, said that HIV "is a medical condition that deserves treatment regardless of anyone's lifestyle."
"It would be a shame if we started to ration medical care based on anyone's lifestyle," Whitwam said.
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