Kansas Ban on AIDS Quarantines May Be Repealed in Public Health Reform
A Kansas bill would repeal the state’s 1988 ban on quarantining individuals with HIV and AIDS as part of broader changes to its public health practices.
Under the proposal — which has passed the Republican-controlled state House of Representatives and is pending in the Republican-controlled state Senate — the power to issue any public health quarantine, as necessary, would shift to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. In the process, the bill would restore AIDS “or any causative agent” to the category of infectious diseases that might constitute the basis for quarantine or isolation.
Advocates argue the legislation would make it easier to develop rules quickly in the face of a health emergency. Opponents say that although they are confident that no HIV/AIDS quarantine would actually be imposed, there are other concerns.
“My biggest fear is not that we will see mass quarantine movements,” said Tom Witt, the executive director of the Kansas Equality Coalition. “My concern is harassment. We will see this used to harass people.”
Witt said he fears that local public health officials could try to use the threat of quarantine to intimidate individuals with HIV and AIDS or the LGBT community in general. He said that even though the U.S. Supreme Court declared laws criminalizing same-sex sexual activity to be unconstitutional in 2003, the anti-sodomy law remaining on Kansas’ law books has been used as a means of harassment.