The founder of an organization which advocates for the rights AIDS patients says that a proposed Kansas law which allows HIV people to be quarantined would essentially give cover to religious officials who might want to discriminate against LGBT people.
"That rural county health department -- and I hate to say it -- potentially could use this bill to justify their religious belief that could override their professional belief," Positive Directions Inc.'s Cody Patton told KWCH on Tuesday.
Right now, it's against the law in Kansas to quarantine HIV positive people but House Bill 2183 changes that. The measure is intended to allow firefighters or paramedics who are exposed to bodily fluids during the course of duty to get the victim's blood tested without a court order. But lawmakers also added language that allows people with HIV and AIDS to be quarantined.
Patton said that he understood the need to protect emergency officials, but lawmakers had not thought through their decision to quarantine people with HIV.
"They didn't get that whole concept of being discriminated against," he pointed out. "And they didn't get that stuff still happens today."
Last week, the state Committee on Health and Human Services rejected an amendment by Sen. Marci Francisco (D) that would have restored the exclusion for people with HIV.
AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein told Gay Star News that the situation reminded him of the "earliest, darkest days" of the AIDS epidemic when there was little understanding of the disease.
"At best, it is short-sighted of Kansas legislators to reject Senator Francisco’s amendment," he noted. "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."
The bill was passed by the Republican-controlled state Senate last Thursday by a vote of 29 to 11. It breezed through the Republican-controlled state House earlier this month, 122 to 1. Both the House and Senate appointed members of a conference committee earlier this week to finalize the bill before it goes to Gov. Sam Brownback's (R) desk to be signed into law.