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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 29, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 13
'We're trapped, Toto!' - Kansas wants to quarantine HIV+ people
Section One
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'We're trapped, Toto!' - Kansas wants to quarantine HIV+ people

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The Kansas state legislature is putting the finishing touches on a bill to allow state officials to quarantine HIV-positive residents. According to local news sources, the bill is expected to become law in the next few weeks.

In a report aired on WDAF-TV in Kansas City, HIV/AIDS activists charged that the measure is flagrantly discriminatory and say health officials, especially those in rural areas, may begin intimidating HIV-positive people by threatening to quarantine them.

"They didn't get that whole idea of being discriminated against," said Cody Patton of Positive Directions Inc., an advocacy group for HIV-positive people. "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."

REVERSES 1988 LAW
Kansas banned officials from quarantining AIDS patients in 1988, but supporters of the bill say restoring that option will help protect the public from a variety of infectious diseases, not just HIV. Tuberculosis and hepatitis patients would also be subject to quarantine.

According to the proposed law, HB 2183, the Kansas Secretary of Health and Environment would be able to issue orders for a quarantine without consulting with medical providers or any other public official.

"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," the bill states.

NO PATIENT PRIVACY
Another provision of the legislation would eliminate privacy protections for people treated by emergency responders.

"No later than January 1, 2014, the secretary shall develop and adopt rules and regulations providing for the protection of individuals who provide medical or nursing services, clinical or forensic laboratory services, emergency medical services and firefighting, law enforcement and correctional services, or who provide any other service (or individuals who receive any such services) or are in any other employment where the individual may encounter occupational exposure to blood and other potentially infectious materials," the bill says.

Currently, when first responders are exposed to a patient's blood, they are required to get a court order for a blood test. The proposed changes would allow state officials to order a blood test even if the patient objected.

The bill passed the Republican-controlled Senate last week by a vote of 29-11. Earlier this month it breezed through the House, 122-1. It is now being finalized in a House-Senate conference committee before being sent to Gov. Sam Brownback, a notorious anti-Gay politician, for his signature.

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