Georgia state Rep. Betty Price asked a legal question last week that has stunned some observers. In a public hearing, Price asked about the legality of quarantining HIV patients in order to quell the spreading of AIDS. Later on, Price walked back on her comments and clarified that the "provocative" and "rhetorical" question was "taken completely out of context." But in spite of her clarification, advocates say Price's comments hurt HIV patients — a community that has been on the receiving end of social and institutional stigma for years.
In a question posed to Georgia's director of the HIV/AIDS Epidemiology Surveillance Section, a part of the state's health department, Price asked:
And I don't want to say the quarantine word, but I guess I just said it. ... 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?
Murray Penner, executive director of the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD), tells Bustle that Price's comments are "abhorrent."
"First of all, the stigma of HIV is tremendous just in and of itself," Penner says. "Layer on the fact that you have someone asking whether or not it's legal to quarantine anyone, let alone people living with HIV. It's abhorrent. It really is something that further stigmatizes — it works against everything advocacy groups are trying to achieve in terms of access to care, and getting people treatment."
Penner is pointing to the documented abuse and marginalization HIV patients face in societies across the world, including the United States of America.