AIDS Crisis Finds New Urgency on Capitol Hill
February 11, 2003
Stemming from the loss of his sister to AIDS, Sen. Norm Coleman's signature issue has become AIDS relief efforts. Last week, Coleman (R-Minn.) met with the prime ministers of Uganda and Kenya to discuss the impact of AIDS. And he hopes to go to Africa this year to witness the devastation of the AIDS crisis, which he terms "probably the most catastrophic issue facing this planet."Adapted from:
Pushed into the forefront by President Bush's $15 billion proposal to fight AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean, AIDS relief has a newfound urgency on Capitol Hill. Some are selling the Bush plan as a national security issue, arguing that populous and large countries could potentially be destabilized by AIDS without action, while others feel that the epidemic has reached a magnitude that can no longer be ignored.
Executive director of the Minnesota AIDS Project Lorraine Teel noted, "We're seeing very similar rampant, rapid growth of HIV in every one of the former Soviet states, in India and China. And so the need to curtail the spread of HIV worldwide is immediate."
Coleman, who was appointed to the Senate's African affairs subcommittee on Wednesday, acknowledged that international efforts sometimes trump local politics. "There is a global aspect," he said in one of his first statements on the Senate floor. "We are touched by what happens around the world."
However, Sen. Mark Dayton (D-Minn.) suggested that Bush may have used AIDS in the State of the Union speech to "present him as a great humanitarian" as he prepares for a possible war against Iraq. Dayton also thinks that the $15 billion earmarked for HIV/AIDS relief in 12 African countries and two nations in the Caribbean could be better spent at home. "It's odd that he dramatized a spending increase away from home while leaving farmers in northwestern Minnesota in disaster, and Head Start ... and special education" underfunded. "I appreciate his humanitarian impulse. I wish he'd direct it toward Americans," Dayton said.
Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
02.10.03; Rob Hotakainen; Tom Ford