Elton John takes on lawmaker who said people with HIV should be ‘quarantined’
Elton John has taken on a Republican lawmaker who suggested that people living with HIV should be “quarantined” to stop it spreading.
The suggestion comes from Rep. Betty Price, an official in the Georgia House of Representatives.
Representative Price was speaking during a House Committee Meeting which was hearing from experts about ways to tackle the state’s growing HIV epidemic.
Speaking to the director of the Georgia Department of Public Health’s HIV Epidemiology Section, she asked if it would be legal to “quarantine” people who are diagnosed with HIV.
She said: “My thinking sometimes goes in strange directions, but before we proceed, if you wouldn’t mind commenting on the surveillance of partners, tracking of contacts, that sort of thing?
“What are we legally able to do?
“I don’t want to say the quarantine word — but I guess I just said it.
“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?
“Are there any methods, legally, that we could do that would curtail the spread?”
Now Sir Elton John has weighed in on the controversy, issuing a lengthy statement slamming the Republican.
In it, he says: “Rep. Betty Price’s comments about people living with HIV are horrific, discriminatory, and astonishingly ill-informed. As a doctor and elected official from a state where people are still contracting HIV at an alarming rate, Mrs. Price should know better than to demonize people and perpetuate myths that stigmatize people living with HIV.
“Her words smack of a dark time when there was little or no information about HIV and people were afraid of each other. Today, thanks to scientific advancements, growing acceptance and love, people living with HIV are living longer, healthier lives. We also know people living with HIV pose no public threat.”
In the statement, given to Fox News, Sir Elton ends: “Mrs. Price should educate herself about HIV and user her position of power to provide support, resources and compassion to her constituents. Love is the cure. Not quarantines.”
The lawmaker, who is also a qualified doctor, had later added: “It seems to me it’s almost frightening the number of people who are living that are potentially carriers — well they are carriers — with the potential to spread, whereas in the past they died more readily and then at that point they are not posing a risk.”
Of course, there are many things Georgia could do to help tackle the HIV epidemic – investing money in HIV testing and public health initiatives, abolishing its ‘abstinence only’ sex education curriculum to actually teach people how to have safe sex, or funding Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis drugs for those most at risk.
We can’t believe we have to explain this to an actual doctor, but locking up people when they’re diagnosed with HIV is not only illegal, it’s a really crappy way of preventing HIV.
As people who are on HIV medication are much less likely to pass it onto others, the best way to prevent HIV infections is to get as many people who are living with HIV diagnosed and into treatment as possible.
GLAAD slammed Rep. Price’s comments, adding that “Vicious comments like this will not address HIV prevention, and instead further promotes the misinformation and stigma that creates barriers to testing and treatment for vulnerable communities”.
Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD said: “We have come a long way in how we understand and talk about HIV as a nation, and comments like those made by Georgia State Representative Betty Price fly in the face of that progress, and of basic decency.
“This language coming from anyone is totally unacceptable, but coming from a medical doctor and a Georgia State Representative it is reprehensible.
“GLAAD is calling for a full apology for these remarks on behalf of all people affected by this harmful statement.”
In a happy coincidence, it turns out that Rep. Price is actually the wife of Tom Price, Donald Trump’s erstwhile Secretary of Health and Human Services.
During his time as the most senior health official in the US, Mr Price proposed massive cuts to HIV prevention programmes.
Earlier this year, experts resigned en masse from Donald Trump’s Presidential Advisory Council on HIV and AIDS, saying that Trump and his administration “do not care” about ending the epidemic.
Scott Schoettes, Lucy Bradley-Springer, Gina Brown, Ulysses Burley III, Michelle Ogle, and Grissel Granados all resigned in protest at the president’s “regressive” policies in health care.
The council was created in 1995 with the aim of providing advice, information and recommendations to the Secretary of Health concerning the prevention and cure of HIV and AIDS.
In a joint resignation letter, the group wrote that they had dedicated their lives to fighting HIV and AIDS, but felt that the Trump administration was preventing them from doing this successfully.
Schoettes wrote: “As advocates for people living with HIV, we have dedicated our lives to combating this disease and no longer feel we can do so effectively within the confines of an advisory body to a president who simply does not care.”
They went on to write that the current state of the advisory board, which is also known as PACHA, was “concerning”.
“The Trump Administration has no strategy to address the on-going HIV/AIDS epidemic, seeks zero input from experts to formulate HIV policy, and—most concerning—pushes legislation that will harm people living with HIV and halt or reverse important gains made in the fight against this disease.”
The president has also quietly shuttered the White House Office of National AIDS policy, after the departure of its previous director.
Of Trump’s plans to reverse healthcare reforms, the panel said: “We know who the biggest losers will be if states are given the option of eliminating essential health benefits or allowing insurers to charge people with HIV substantially more than others.
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“It will be people—many of them people of color—across the South and in rural and underserved areas across the country, the regions and communities now at the epicentre of the U.S. HIV/AIDS epidemic.
“It will be young gay and bisexual men; it will be women of colour; it will be transgender women; it will be low-income people. It will be people who become newly infected in an uncontrolled epidemic, new cases that could be prevented by appropriate care for those already living with the disease.”
The group concluded the letter by saying that the resignation was not an easy decision, but one that must be made.
“The decision to resign from government service is not one that any of us take lightly. However, we cannot ignore the many signs that the Trump Administration does not take the on-going epidemic or the needs of people living with HIV seriously.”