It sounds like a bill from the early 1980s, but it’s recent, it’s live, and it might pass into law—Kansas is looking at quarantining people with HIV.
Despite the blatant violation of discrimination laws, Kansas House Bill 2183, which has already passed the state Senate, would force those living with “infectious and contagious disease” into isolation or restrict their movements in the name of public health and safety. The bill is not aimed solely at people living with HIV/AIDS, but both are explicitly mentioned.
A member of the state Senate, Marci Francisco, attempted to have the bill amended to exclude HIV/AIDS from the measure due to the disease not being spread through casual contact, as well as citing concerns about bigotry. His efforts were rejected, even though an outdated section addressing what defines tuberculosis—which can be passed through casual contact—would be removed.
Activists denounced the bill as a throwback to the early days of the AIDS epidemic, when it was very poorly understood, not yet treatable, and an automatic death sentence. The original intent of Bill 2183 was to allow medical responders exposed to a patient’s bodily fluids to have them tested without first needing a court order, but it was then amended to add the language regarding mandated isolation.
“Stigma and discrimination are two key drivers of new HIV infections in the United States,” said spokesperson for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, Ryan McKeel, in an interview with 429Magazine. “This legislation significantly undermines the efforts of HIV/AIDS advocates across the nation to eliminate the harmful impacts of stigma and discrimination. Bills such as this didn’t make sense in the early 1980s, when the virus was first discovered, and they certainly don’t make sense in 2013.”
The US Department of Justice ruled discrimination against HIV/AIDS patients illegal in 1988; that same year, Kansas passed a law banning them from being quarantined. Despite some groups calling for it in the mid to late 1980s, mandatory isolation protocols for the HIV-positive were never established in the United States.