Posted on December 1, 2003
World AIDS Day is a good time for us in Tennessee and across the country to refocus our attention on this terrible disease. As chairman of the United States Senate African Affairs Subcommittee, I've had a chance to see first hand the devastation in Africa. For the last two weeks of August, Senator Bill Frist, our Majority Leader, and I and four other senators toured four countries in Southern Africa and saw there countries that are headed - in the words of their leaders - to virtual extinction if we don't deal with the disease. Twenty-five percent to one-third of the people who live in Botswana, for example, are infected with HIV/AIDS. This is also a reminder that we should pay attention at home to our needs in Tennessee. In Tennessee, we have 16,000 Tennesseans who are infected with HIV/AIDS and more than 6,000 people living with the disease. The National Institute of Health receives $3 billion dollars a year from the federal government to try to deal with the disease. There's real hope here as compared with Africa. We've reduced the mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS infection to a very low amount, and safe medical practices in the United States keep people from being infected in that way almost all the time. But, we still have a terrific problem here and one that we need to continue to focus on. I am proud of the fact that President Bush and our Congress has committed to help struggling Africa and Caribbean countries fight the disease that's ravaging their countries. But at the same time, we need to take what we learn there and continue our commitment to help Tennesseans and all Americans be free of this disease.