May 2, 2003
With the House approving a $15 billion bill to combat AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean Thursday, Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) said he hopes the Senate follows quickly. "Get the money out to folks who need it," he said. "I want to get it done."
For the freshman senator, the issue is a personal one: Coleman's sister Kathy died of AIDS about 10 years ago. He said his sister got AIDS from her husband, who also died. "I recognize the great deal of pain and suffering that families go through," Coleman said. He said his sister's death "highly sensitized me to the impact of this little virus."
Coleman said he expects the Senate to pass the House version of the AIDS bill without many changes. The bill includes an amendment assuring that one-third of the money for AIDS prevention would go to sexual abstinence programs. "We need a multi-pronged approach" that includes abstinence as well as condom distribution, Coleman said. He said he had no problem with an amendment that strengthened protections for religious groups that object to condom distribution. "If they're out there reaching people, then fund them," Coleman said. "But don't preclude other organizations that do do condom distribution. My sense is that folks are achieving some kind of balance."
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) has pledged to act quickly on a Senate bill with the goal of getting legislation to the president by the end of the month. Coleman said he hopes to travel to Africa this year, possibly with Frist, to get a firsthand look at the AIDS epidemic.