Minnesota Losing Ground in AIDS Fight, Experts Tell Coleman
February 20, 2003
Recent budget cuts have slowed Minnesota's work on HIV prevention and treatment, raising question's about the state's ability to be a global partner in fighting the devastating disease, a panel of AIDS experts told Sen. Norm Coleman on Saturday in Minneapolis. Coleman said he called for the discussion with about 30 of the state's top AIDS specialists in response to his Senate committee work on foreign relations and the president's recent focus on the disease's international threat. The senator also has firsthand experience -- his sister died of AIDS-related complications.Adapted from:
HIV is now spreading fastest among Minnesota's African-born immigrants, who desperately need culturally specific attention, experts said. But dwindling resources and the competing needs of gay men and other at-risk groups cause concern that the state's relatively low infection rate could increase in coming years. About 4,600 Minnesotans have HIV/AIDS, with an estimated 300 new cases a year.
Coleman said he would do his best to speed along federal grant proposals, share anecdotes with influential policymakers, and intervene when AIDS researchers or patients from other countries are prevented from visiting Minnesota because of strict US entry requirements. "It's not like I can shift major amounts of dollars, but at least I can be in on the discussions," he said.
University of Minnesota AIDS researcher Dr. Alan Lifson said he treated a young Liberian woman who had severe immune system deficiencies, malnutrition and skin lesions. Within months of treatment, he said, the patient's weight increased, her immunity improved and the lesions cleared. The woman's experience contrasted with what Lifson saw in Malawi and other African nations, he said, where large public hospitals are filled with AIDS patients lying on metal cots, their eyes sunken with disease and despair. "If you've ever seen it, you can never forget it," Lifson aid. "It's a look of hopelessness."
St. Paul Pioneer Press
02.16.03; Hannah Allam