Forcibly Quarantining People With HIV? Seriously, Kansas?

A Kansas bill designed to help protect paramedics and firefighters appears to have been hijacked to potentially legalize quarantining people with HIV/AIDS.

As originally introduced (pdf), HB2183 would allow firefighters and paramedics exposed to bodily fluids during the course of their duties to require the person they were treating or helping to take a blood test to rule out HIV infection. Currently this can only happen via a court order which, obviously, takes time.

However, because the bill dealt specifically with HIV, lawmakers on the Committee of Health and Human Services decided to substitute the bill (pdf) for one that would widen the bill’s scope to include other infectious diseases. Nothing controversial so far, except in so doing they left intact the following:

The secretary of health and environment is authorized to issue such orders and adopt rules and regulations as may be necessary to prevent the spread and dissemination of diseases injurious to the public health, including, but not limited to, providing for the testing for such diseases and the isolation and quarantine of persons afflicted with or exposed to such diseases.

while striking the preceding paragraph that exempted HIV/AIDS patients:

(a) but the infectious or contagious disease acquired immune deficiency syndrome or any causative agent thereof shall not constitute an infections or contagious disease for the purpose of [this directive].

The legislation also appears to give room to unqualified forced testing where it says, “providing for the testing for such diseases and the isolation and quarantine of persons afflicted with or exposed to such diseases.”

This marked departure from existing state law, federal law and all reputable health advice surrounding HIV/AIDS, drew severe concern from many awareness groups and wider health bodies, including D. Charles Hunt, Director of the Bureau of Epidemiology and Public Health Informatics, who wrote a letter entitled “Open Letter Regarding Kansas House Bill 2183″ in which he warned, “Isolating persons with HIV infection or quarantining persons exposed to HIV would not be reasonable or medically necessary, and, therefore, would not be legal.”

A number of Democratic lawmakers also raised concerns about this and Senator Marci Francisco offered an amendment to restore the exemption.

As you can see in this version of the bill, the state Senate rejected the amendment. Why? Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook (R-Shawnee) reportedly said during debate that Francisco’s amendment would make the bill discriminatory because it would separate people with a specific disease from others. Treating different infections differently, fancy that.

The senate went on to advance the bill, 29 to 11, last Thursday. It rocketed through the Republican-controlled state House earlier this month 122 to 1.

The bill will now go through a process of further committee wrangling, but controlling Republicans in the state legislature want this bill to pass so a vote is expected soon. They maintain that health officials need this sweeping power in order to prevent future health crises.

However, by first casually striking the HIV exemption and then refusing to restore it when objections were raised that attempted to inform and educate on why HIV is different from other infections covered by the bill, the Kansas legislature has drawn sharp criticism among HIV/AIDS awareness groups who say this is a return to the pre-1988 landscape when quarantining of those with HIV/AIDS was legal and a lethal stigma existed.

Cody Patton, Executive Director of Positive Directions, has clarified that he doesn’t believe the bill will be used to stigmatize HIV/AIDS patients, but rather as a way of supporting religious-based animus against HIV/AIDS patients and to deny them their rights:

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. My fear would not be the state uses the law as some way to move all people living with HIV/AIDS into an isolated community, but that this law could allow some county employee to use this law to justify their religious beliefs over their professional responsibilities and discriminate against people with HIV/AIDS.

Activists have also warned that HIV/AIDS detection and prevention never does well in a climate of oppression and stigmatization and this, they say, is precisely what the bill would create.


Related Reading:

HIV/AIDS: The Tide is Turning, but Not Fast Enough

HIV-Positive Inmates Kept Isolated in Some Parts of U.S.

Is Cow’s Milk The HIV Vaccine We’ve Been Waiting For?

Image credit: Thinkstock.


Marie Russell-Barker

Ignorance is no excuse to discriminate against some one with HIV /AIDS Kansas is the most it ignoramus States out of the whole 50. They are uneducated and don't want their citizens to become educated. A left behind State.

Eva Jager
Eva Jager4 years ago

Elaine and others - I am supposedly 28.5 years after my blood infusion that caused my so-called HepC. I am taking no medication and I am healthier than ever. With treatment I would have probably been under the ground, after "complications from HepC". It is outrageously idiotic to declare a person sick just based on one number. How come I never had the flu? My last cold was in the winter of 2005? All those nasty creatures floating around in the air attacking so many people and sparing myself? Why? Bechamp was right, terrain is everything, and Pasteur was wrong. All those paranoids just go and swallow the poisons, I continue my healthy lifestyle, just let me do it.

Elaine McAuliffe
Elaine McAuliffe4 years ago

Re: Eva and Jeanne Y, there is NO credible information that HIV does not cause AIDS, in fact, it took too long to make the connection since AIDS was seen as a "gay" disease no real research was done until it moved into the general population. So, you can posture and rant all you want, but that does not change reality. HIV causes AIDS, plain and simple, however, neither HIV or Aids is contagious. That is a designation for diseases like flu and the common cold which do not require intimate contact to spread. What Kansas is doing is just another example of the false morality practiced in "Christian" communities.

Vicky P.
Vicky P4 years ago

just wrong of them to do this, some of these people really hate science and knowledge don't they

Jessica Larsen
Janne O4 years ago

I understand them. HIV is a sentence to be forever on meds or die. There are just way too many irresponsible people.

Pamela Tracy
Pamela Tracy4 years ago

What about airborne diseases such as the far as I am concerned there is a problem with people working with the flu and passing it on to customers.

Pamela Tracy
Pamela Tracy4 years ago

I think things are going the wrong way. In fact, TB and hepatitis and some other issues are just as important. In fact, hotel/motel employees working as housekeepers and in housekeeping and washing linens should have TB and hepatitis testing regularly and stricter measures should be required in hotels/motels. I do not believe this is necessary. Sounds like other countries but not like our informed country. Altho there are people that cannot be trusted to be correct in their actions most of us are responsible.

Jeanne Y.
Jeanne Young4 years ago

There are some credible studies done that indicate HIV is NOT the cause of AIDS - Even if that weren't the case, it is terrifying to think that quarantine would be established for these diseases -And, quarantine would give a tremendous boost to the (very profitable) HIV/AIDS treatment industry. Is there possibly a connection between this proposed law and the profit to be made?

Christine Stewart

If there was an individual with a contagious, potential life-threatening disease, and that person purposefully put other people at risk- unprotected sex, biting, etc- in that case I would support quarantine- so that's obviously only going to happen in very rare cases. I would support mandatory HIV, hepatitis, etc tests for criminals who engaged in forcible "fluid sharing" like rape, biting, whatever- so the exposed person would know if they were at risk of catching anything.

Eva Jager
Eva Jager4 years ago

Bill C.

Wake up! We live surrounded by bacteria and viruses, we are all meant to get along. Antibiotics destroyed our intestinal flora, so today we are paying a lot to restore it by paying a lot for probiotics, because we just discovered that there are also good bacteria :o) just one example.
I won't take an unnecessary intravenous blood infusion, I got more than that in 1984 after the birth of my daughter and I ended up labeled and outcast (Hep C positive), even if I am perfectly healthy. I am not taking an infusion not because I am afraid of becoming ill, but due to todays health laws.
I don't need to be persecuted more than I am.

And stop being paranoid. No airborne TB vectors and other BS. Just don't take intravenously anything unnecessary and watch what you eat and drink. It is that simple.