The HIV/AIDS community and advocacy groups are up in arms over a Kansas bill that would quarantine citizens with HIV/AIDS.
Intended to allow first-responders exposed to bodily fluids to get a victim’s blood tested without a court order, House Bill 2183 also updates the state’s public health statute by allowing the quarantine of Kansas residents with “infectious diseases,” namely HIV/AIDS. Kansas originally banned the quarantining of those living with the disease in 1988.
Many believe the bill gives officials the right to harass and discriminate against those with HIV/AIDS. “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,” said Cody Patton, Executive Director of sexual health charity Positive Directions. “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.”
Those against the bill see it as a continued misconception about how people contract the disease. “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,” said Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
The controversial bill was passed last week on the Senate floor and is expected to be signed into law in a few weeks.