Some fear proposed Kan. bill could lead to HIV/AIDS quarantines

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — In an effort to protect the public from infectious diseases, a proposed bill in Kansas has some feeling ostracized. That’s because some are interpreting the bill to allow people with HIV or AIDS to be quarantined.

Right now, if a firefighter or a paramedic in Kansas is exposed to bodily fluids while treating a victim, they need a court order to get that victim’s blood tested for infectious diseases. But lawmakers are close to passing a new law eliminating that court order. Some, though, say the new law is written so it could also discriminate against those who have HIV or AIDS.

Kansas banned quarantining those with AIDS back in 1988, but if this law is passed, those in the LGBT community fear health officials — especially those in rural areas — will begin intimidating those with HIV by threatening to quarantine them.

Lawmakers say that is not the intent of this law. They say the part of the bill some find threatening— shifts authority to quarantine to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, which supporters say can work quickly in health emergencies to prevent epidemics.

“This bill was never about isolation or quarantine related to persons with HIV infection. In fact, current law requires that any isolation or quarantine actions taken by the local health officer or secretary of KDHE must be ‘reasonable and medically necessary,’ wrote D. Charles Hunt, Director of the Bureau of Epidemiology and Public Health Informatics.

In his letter entitled “Open Letter Regarding Kansas House Bill 2183” Hunt says “Isolating persons with HIV infection or quarantining persons exposed to HIV would not be reasonable or medically necessary, and, therefore, would not be legal.”

Hunt said he and others have testified about this before the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee.

“They didn’t get that whole idea of being discriminated against,” said Cody Patton, Positive Directions Inc. “And they didn’t get that that stuff still happens today. My concern is that there’s a lot of people in this state that are still fearful of HIV that don’t look at factual information.”

Lawmakers in both the House and Senate are currently working together to get this law passed, so expect them to vote on it in the next few weeks.

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