Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Kansas bill allowing HIV/AIDS quarantine: Equality Coalition says Dept. of Health & Environment pushed for HB2183 rewrite; head is Brownback appointee

Dr. Robert Moser, head of Kansas agency
which pushed for legislation allowing HIV+
Kansans to be quarantined, even though
HIV is not spread through casual contact,
like TB. Moser is a 2011 appointee of Gov.
Sam Brownback, one of the nation's most
homophobic governors. Kansas law currently
forbids HIV+ people from being quarantined.
The Kansas Equality Coalition, which is urging the defeat of the substitute for HB2183, is blaming disturbing new language in the bill, targeting HIV+ Kansans, on pressure from the Kansas Dept. of Health and Environment.
     House Bill 2183 started as a bill that would make it easier for first responders to find out if they had been exposed to HIV, hepatitis, and other blood-borne diseases. When HB 2183 was introduced, KEC and the ACLU reviewed the bill. Both organizations initially had concerns that patients’ 4th Amendment rights were at risk, but after consultation with other stakeholders, agreed that as written the bill posed little to no risk to people living with HIV, and would help protect first responders.
Days after the public hearings on the bill, however, officials from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment proposed entirely new language that removes key limits on the authority to quarantine people with communicable diseases, such as tuberculosis. They want the authority to address quarantine through administrative regulations. The bill was “gutted,” and replaced with the language KDHE wanted. Most significantly, the current law that exempts persons exposed to or suffering from HIV/AIDS from quarantine is being repealed.
      Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, said by including HIV/AIDS in this updated law, Kansas legislators are harkening back to the ‘earliest, darkest days of the AIDS epidemic.
      He said: ‘At best, it is short-sighted of Kansas legislators to reject Senator Francisco’s 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.

Below: Positive Directions Inc.’s Cody Patton

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