A proposed bill in Kansas is calling for people with HIV or AIDS to be quarantined.
Lawmakers are close to passing a new law discriminating against those who have HIV or AIDS, forcing them to be isolated or have their movements restricted.
Kansas House Bill 2183, which has passed in the Kansas Senate, will update the state’s public health statute by allowing quarantine of Kansans with ‘infectious diseases.’
Senator Marci Francisco attempted to restore an amendment providing an exclusion for people living with HIV/AIDS, saying the disease is not spread through casual contact and the bill could permit discrimination.
Cody Patton, Executive Director of sexual health charity Positive Directions, said: ‘We live in a very conservative state and I’m afraid there are still many people, especially in rural Kansas, that have inadequate education and understanding concerning HIV/AIDS.
‘My fear would not be the state uses the law as some way to move all people living with HIV/AIDS into an isolated community, but that this law could allow some county employee to use this law to justify their religious beliefs over their professional responsibilities and discriminate against people with HIV/AIDS.’
The law was originally intended to remove the need for a firefighter or a paramedic who would have to get the necessary court order to get a victim’s blood tested for infectious diseases if they had become exposed to it.
In 1988, Kansas banned quarantining those with AIDS. If the law is passed, many are fearing health officials will begin intimidating those with HIV or AIDS with the threat they could be isolated from the general population.
Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, said by including HIV and AIDS in this updated law, Kansas legislators are harkening back to the ‘earliest, darkest days’ of the AIDS epidemic.
He said: ‘At best, it is short-sighted of Kansas legislators to reject Senator Francisco’s amendment. It either shows how little they understand about HIV and how it is transmitted – it is not spread through casual contact such as TB or other airborne communicable diseases – or it shows that they want the ability to quarantine people, and/or discriminate against them in other ways as they see fit.
‘For the senators, either choice shows a real lack of understanding about public health and safety—one of the most basic services that is government’s role to ensure.’
Lawmakers in both the House and Senate are currently working to get this law passed, meaning it will likely be voted on and passed in the next few weeks.