Georgia Lawmaker Says "HIV Quarantine" Quote Taken Out of Context
Betty Price, a Georgia state representative and wife of former federal Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, made headlines last week for her proposed ‘solution’ to the AIDS epidemic — but not in a good way.
At a public hearing on October 17, 2017, Price asked panel members (there discussing health care access in Georgia) about the legality of quarantining people with HIV. Her exact words were:
"What are we legally able to do? I don't want to say the 'quarantine' word, but I guess I just said it. ... What would you advise, or are there any methods, legally, that we could do that would curtail the spread?"
She then went on to suggest that it was lifesaving HIV medication that was partially to blame for the spread of HIV, saying, “It just seems to me it's almost frightening the number of people who are living that are potentially carriers -- well, they are carriers -- but, potential to spread. Whereas, in the past, [HIV-positive people] died more readily, and then at that point, they are not posing a risk.”
According to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were 1.1 million people in the United States living with HIV in 2014, with 1 in 7 people unaware that they were infected. In 2015, Georgia had the fifth-highest rate among states of new HIV diagnoses, with just over 46,000 Georgia citizens living with HIV.
Price’s comments have angered multiple LGBT and HIV advocacy groups. Sarah Kate Ellis, the president of GLAAD, released a statement saying that Price’s words were “reprehensible” and that “comments like those...fly in the face of [HIV] progress.”
During the height of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, more than 40 percent of people who responded to a poll by the Los Angeles Times said that they believed AIDS should be added to the list of infectious diseases that required quarantine. This sparked a national debate amongst lawmakers, who seriously considered quarantining people with HIV at the time.
Recently, Price released a statement saying that her words were taken “out of context” and that she did “...not support a quarantine in this public health challenge and dilemma of undertreated HIV patients.” She went on to say that her words were only meant to “light a fire under all of us with responsibility in the public health arena…”