There was a time when people with leprosy were sent to special quarantine places where they were tended to until they died. Some nations still maintain these colonies, though not the United States, and Kansas would like to go back to such a system, at least for people infected with HIV or AIDS.
A proposed bill in Kansas would force quarantine people diagnosed with HIV or AIDS. The bill would reclassify HIV and AIDS as belonging to the category of diseases listed as ‘infectious’. This would allow for those with the disease to have their freedoms forcibly restricted.
Cody Patton, the executive director of sexual health charity Positive Directions, stated:
“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.”
The law was supposed to remove the need for firefighters and paramedics to get a court order to get someone’s blood tested for infectious diseases if they were exposed to it.
In 1988, Kansas banned quarantining those who had HIV or AIDS; however, the fear is that this would be used to intimidate people with the disease into quarantine. Michael Weinstein, the President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, noted that this move goes back to the “earliest, darkest days” of the epidemic.
He also said that “At best, it is short-sighted of Kansas legislators to reject Senator Francisco’s [legislative] amendment. It either shows how little they understand about HIV and how it is transmitted – it is not spread through casual contact such as TB or other airborne communicable diseases – or it shows that they want the ability to quarantine people, and/or discriminate against them in other ways as they see fit.”
He went on to say “For the senators, either choice shows a real lack of understanding about public health and safety—one of the most basic services that is government’s role to ensure.”