Georgia State Rep. Betty Price Wonders If We Could Maybe Just Quarantine People With HIV 

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Georgia State Rep. Betty Price, the wife of recently-resigned
Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, has followed in
her husband’s footsteps (jet stream?) by demonstrating ideas
about health care that are callous and
discriminatory
.

In 2013, Georgia ranked second in the U.S.
for rate of new HIV diagnoses. The South is in the middle of an
HIV crisis, accounting for 44 percent of all HIV diagnoses
despite making up only 37% of the U.S. population, according to
a 2016 CDC report. The crisis, according to that report, has been spurred in
part by socioeconomic conditions that the Trump administration
and the Republican party—and Tom Price’s extremist-stacked HHS, in particular—have
threatened to exacerbate:

Income inequality,poverty, and poorer health outcomes have
long been more widespread in southern states, compared to the
rest of the nation. These factors are not unique to
HIV—people in the region have long suffered poorer health
outcomes overall. These include disproportionately high rates
of obesity, diabetes,cancer, and infant mortality, as well as
higher overall mortality rates—for all causes than in other
regions. Many people in greatest need are not benefiting from
access to health care services, and southern states generally
continue to have the highest numbers of people without health
insurance. The four states with the highest proportions of
people without health insurance are in the South: Texas
(18.8%), Oklahoma(18.1%), Georgia (17.5%), and Florida
(17.2%).

In March, Rep. Price, an anesthesiologist, pushed a bill through the
state House that, if it had passed, would have extended state
needle exchange programs in response to an increase in HIV
cases—a medically-backed position that her husband has opposed.
But in a Georgia House of Representative study committee
meeting, Price, whose remarks were first reported by Project Q Atlanta, made a
number of disturbing comments (a video of the hearing can be
seen here). From STAT News:

“I don’t want to say the quarantine word — but I guess I just
said it,” Price said to Dr. Pascale Wortley, director of the
Georgia Department of Public Health’s HIV epidemiology
section. “But is there an ability, since I guess public
dollars are expended heavily in prophylaxis and treatment of
this condition, so we have a public interest in curtailing
the spread. … Are there any methods we could do legally to
curtail the spread?”

At the hearing, Price also noted that people “died more
readily” in the past, which was apparently… convenient?

“It seems to me it’s almost frightening the number of people
who are living that are potentially carriers, well not
carriers, with the potential to spread, whereas in the past
they died more readily and at that point they are not posing a
risk,” she said. “So we’ve got a huge population posing a risk
if they are not in treatment.”

K. First of all, just to state the incredibly obvious: it is
not medically sound to quarantine people with HIV/AIDS, because
the disease is not spread through casual contact. There is a
long history of
discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS, largely fueled by
homophobia and racism, and there have been
several controversial attempts to open up the possibility of
various forms of quarantines—in Kansas in 2013, in California in 1986. The
threat of quarantine, advocates say, would prevent
people from disclosing their status, or even getting tested.

In an interview with STAT News, executive director of Georgia
Equality called Price’s comments
“incredibly disturbing,” and evidence of “the amount of work
that still needs to happen to educate elected officials on the
reality of the lives of people living with HIV.”

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