Saturday, March 30, 2013

The HIV Quarantine

In a move that reminds me of a story straight out of the dark ages, state legislators in Kansas are considering a bill that would allow the quarantine of people with AIDS or HIV, even though neither the virus that causes AIDS or the AIDS virus itself are air borne. The HIV virus is a blood borne pathogen, that can be spread through sexual intercourse, blood transfusions or needles used by those who are infected. It is not like the "Black Plague", or leprosy.

Kansas House Bill 2183 was originally created to serve first responders who might be at risk of contracting HIV through their work. But the Kansas Department of Health and Environment rewrote the language in the bill, broadly deregulating when isolation can take place and opening up the possibility that HIV positive people could be quarantined.

Activists have expressed concern that some Kansas residents might not understand how HIV can be spread, and have certain biases thanks to a lack of knowledge. Cody Patton,who represents Positive Directions, an organization for sexual health was quoted as saying,
“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,”
Earlier this year the Kansas Health Department eliminated HIV testing for most counties in the state. This makes absolutely no sense. They don't want people tested for the virus. But if they find out who has been infected they would be quarantined. How will they know who to quarantine? This sounds like a knee jerk reaction fueled by ignorance, and a lack of education, perpetuated by the myth that HIV/AIDS is a gay man's virus. The reality is that 27% of those infected are heterosexual.

But unfortunately, in this case, the facts don't matter, and reality is an after thought, if anything at all. It looks as if ignorance will prevail . The Kansas senate has approved the HIV quarantine bill, and it looks likely to pass.
The most disturbing thing about it is the fact that approving a bill like this sets a dangerous president which may cause other states to follow suit, spreading ignorance and unfairly punishing, and persecuting some of the very same people that it is supposed to protect. It is just another case of bureaucracy attempting to turn back time, and turn on people. 


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