A representative from Georgia asked about the legality of quarantining HIV patients at a public hearing last Tuesday, sparking a national furor.
Dr. Betty Price, a Republican, anesthesiologist and the wife of the former federal Health and Human Services secretary, asked Dr. Pascale Wortley, director of the HIV/AIDS Epidemiology Surveillance Section at the Georgia Department of Public Health,
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?
Price’s husband, Tom Price, resigned last month from Donald Trump’ cabinet.
During a committee meeting, Price said, “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, they died more readily, and then at that point, they are not posing a risk. So, we’ve got a huge population posing a risk if they’re not in treatment.”
Wortley did not directly address the question about quarantine, opting to talk about the state’s programs for identifying and tracking HIV patients, q13 Fox reports.
The LGBQT advocacy group GLAAD demanded an apology from the representative for her remarks. The quarantining of HIV patients has not been seriously raised since the 1980s.
Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD’s president, said, “We have come a long way in how we understand and talk about HIV as a nation, and comments like those made by Georgia State Representative Betty Price fly in the face of that progress, and of basic decency.” She called the comments, made by a doctor and a lawmaker, “reprehensible.”
She said in a statement, “I do not support a quarantine in this public health challenge and dilemma of undertreated HIV patients. I do, however, wish to light a fire under all of us with responsibility in the public health arena – a fire that will result in resolve and commitment to ensure that all of our fellow citizens with HIV will receive, and adhere to, a treatment regimen that will enhance their quality of life and protect the health of the public.”
The Georgia Department of Public Health, on behalf of Wortley, likewise refused to comment.