Tennessee Senator Bill Frist, the Republican leader of the U.S. Senate, is in Iowa today and a group pushing for changes in distribution of federal AIDS treatment dollars is urging Frist to act. The Ryan White Care Act gives too much money to cities and not enough to states like Iowa, according to Christine Steinman, a spokeswoman for the Minority Health Coalition. “The face of AIDS has changed geographically,” Steinman says. “Where it used to be San Francisco, New York (and) some of the bigger metropolitan areas, it’s now changed where we’re now seeing it come up more particularly in the south and some of the rural states like Iowa.”

Frist says he was a co-sponsor of the bill which established greater federal funding for AIDS treatment programs, and he intends to ensure the funding plan gets “reauthorized” this year. “As a physician and one who has personally taken care of many, many patients with HIV/AIDS, who has helped diagnose it (and) treat the complications, I am a strong advocate,” Frist says.

Frist says the funding should be distributed “appropriately” across the country, based on the need. “HIV/AIDS is a deadly disease. It can be treated very effectively,” Frist says. “We need to make sure that treatment is available for all Americans with the diagnosis.”

Frist says the vote on the measure should come in the next three months. Frist is in Iowa today (Monday), scheduled to speak to a gathering at a Des Moines hospital. “Having spent 20 years in the practice of medicine, coming to Washington as a citizen legislator, and having spent 12 years there trying to do the same thing — healing America’s problems…I will be going back to Tennessee after two terms in the Senate,” Frist says. “We’ll just have to see. I might just go back to the practice of medicine.”

Frist is also considering a bid for the White House in 2008, but with the 2006 November election looming Frist is traveling the country trying to shore up Republicans in the midst of low public opinion ratings for both the Republican-led Congress and President Bush.

Frist says Republicans need to stress their beliefs in limited government and the values of freedom and liberty around the world. “It’s a simple message,” Frist says. “It’s a message we need to get out more effectively to the American people over the next six or seven months. If we do that, I am confident that we will do well in those elections.”

Frist intends to get the Senate to vote on an immigration bill before Memorial Day. Immigration is a hot button issue for many Republican voters, although the bill Frist intends to advance would give millions of immigrants a pathway to citizenship. Also today, Frist is sending President Bush a letter asking for an investigation to determine whether oil companies are engaging in price gouging.