Advocates are raising concerns over remarks made by a Georgia state lawmaker about the possibility of quarantining people with HIV.
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At a state House study committee hearing Tuesday, Rep. Betty Price, R-Roswell, asked a Georgia Department of Health epidemiologist about what’s legally possible in terms of limiting the spread of the virus.
“If you wouldn’t mind commenting on the surveillance of partners, tracking of contacts, that sort of thing. What, what are we legally able to do, and I don’t want to say the ‘quarantine’ word but I guess I just said it,” Price said. “Is there an ability, since I would guess that public dollars are expended heavily in prophylaxis and treatment of this condition so we have a public interest in curtailing the spread. What would you advise, or are there any methods — legally — that we could do that would curtail the spread?”
Dr. Pascale Wortley, director of the Georgia Department of Health’s HIV Epidemiology Section, did not specifically address the question about quarantine, but spoke about programs to get more people with HIV into care and treatment.
Price followed up, saying “It’s almost frightening the number of people who are living that are potentially carriers — well they are carriers — but potential to spread whereas well in the past they died more readily and then at that point they’re not posing a risk. So we’ve got a huge population posing a risk if they’re not in treatment.”
Dr. Wendy Armstrong, medical director of Grady Health System’s infectious disease program, and who was at the hearing said she was concerned after hearing Price’s remarks.
“I fear that discussion of measures like quarantine only would serve to increase stigma,” Armstrong said. “Hearing Representative Price talk about quarantine made it again clear that we have a lot of work to do educate about HIV and about the challenges that exist for patients who are infected with HIV.”
Price did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.