Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), who is visiting Africa as part of a six-member congressional delegation led by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), on Friday said South African Minister of Trade and Industry Alec Erwin's comment that HIV/AIDS is not affecting the country's economy and life expectancy were "rather shocking," the AP/St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. Erwin on Thursday told the delegation that the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the country is manageable, and he said that money available through the global AIDS initiative signed into law by President Bush in May would be better used in countries that do not have their AIDS epidemics under control, according to the AP/Pioneer Press (Frommer, AP/St. Paul Pioneer Press, 8/23). The delegation, which includes Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Mike DeWine (R-Ohio), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and John Warner (R-Va.), was meeting with government officials in South Africa to discuss strategies for fighting HIV/AIDS (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/22). "We all challenged (Erwin)," Coleman said, adding, "To us, the impact is so overwhelming. You've got five million people with HIV." Frist said he told Erwin he found his comments "hard to believe based on world literature." Coleman said that the South African government, which "only recently admitted that AIDS is a problem," is "finally getting it." Coleman added, "But still, as referenced by the conversation with the trade minister, you question whether there is some denial" (AP/St. Paul Pioneer Press, 8/23). Before returning to the United States on Friday, the congressional delegation plans to meet with government and public health officials, physicians, HIV-positive people and their families and visit clinics and testing and treatment facilities in Mozambique, Botswana and Namibia (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/22).
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