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TLANTA — A Georgia state lawmaker — the wife of former Trump health secretary Tom Price — is drawing condemnation for suggesting that people with HIV might be quarantined to curb the spread of the infectious disease.

Republican state Rep. Betty Price, a former anesthesiologist who represents people living in the northern Atlanta area, asked in a hearing this week “what are we legally able to do” to limit the spread of HIV throughout the state.

“I don’t want to say the quarantine word — but I guess I just said it,” Price said to Dr. Pascale Wortley, director of the Georgia Department of Public Health’s HIV epidemiology section. “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. … Are there any methods legally that we could do that would curtail the spread?”

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Her remarks came Tuesday morning during a Georgia House of Representative study committee meeting about barriers to access to health care in the state, and are captured in video of the hearing. The remarks were first reported by Project Q Atlanta, a local website serving the city’s gay community.

Georgia was home to nearly 50,000 people diagnosed with HIV in 2014, and had the second highest rate of new diagnoses among all states the following year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Wortley’s presentation noted that gay black men in metro Atlanta have by far the highest rates of HIV diagnoses in Georgia. AIDS researchers have compared the severity of Atlanta’s epidemic to that of some nations in Africa.

“It’s almost frightening the number of people who are living that are … carriers with the potential to spread,” Price said during the hearing. “Whereas in the past, they died more readily, and then at that point, they’re not posing a risk. So we’ve got a huge population posing a risk if they’re not in treatment.”

Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality, called Price’s comments “incredibly disturbing” and evidence of the stigma that still exists around HIV.

“It’s very troubling to hear comments like that,” he said. “It shows the amount of work that still needs to happen to educate elected officials on the reality of the lives of people living with HIV. I’m hoping Rep. Price would be open to sitting down, meeting with folks, hearing how those comments sound, and recognizing that’s not the direction we need to go in.”

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He noted that Price has in the past supported the full legalization of syringe exchanges throughout the state — an intervention that public health experts say would curb the spread of HIV.

In Tuesday’s exchange Wortley did not directly respond to Price’s question regarding whether the state could legally quarantine HIV patients. Instead, the epidemiologist called for the expansion of public health programs that identify untreated Georgians with HIV in order to help those people get proper care.

Dr. Carlos del Rio, co-director for the Emory Center for AIDS Research, told STAT that he thinks Price’s comments were “unfortunate” but ultimately “not mean-spirited.” He believes the gaffe can serve as a moment to teach best public health practices in addressing the HIV and AIDS crisis.

“We need to emphasize that in this day and age, quarantining is not a useful strategy to control HIV,” he said. “We need to get public health [workers] to find people, get them into care, keep them in care, and keep them virally suppressed. If we can keep them virally suppressed, we can stop the epidemic.”

On Friday evening, Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, called upon Price to apologize to those with HIV for her “harmful” remarks. In a statement, the head of one of the nation’s leading gay rights advocacy groups said the lawmaker’s comments flew “in the face of that progress, and of basic decency.”

“This language coming from anyone is totally unacceptable,” Ellis said in her statement, “but coming from a medical doctor and a Georgia State Representative it is reprehensible.”

Rep. Price did not respond to STAT’s request for further comment.

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  • Pandemic. This is no new suggestion and ,most assuredly, neither is the fear which generates such proposals. Many of us may think this woman cruel. But after you have watched the fruit of your womb and loins deteriorate right before you from HIV_AIDS, perhaps you all will better understand why? also, I myself have seen the transmission of this disease to others by those who do not care; i. e. “HIV parties (Los Angeles) and elsewhere, sex clubs, night clubs and the like. Now there are those among us who are infiltrating themselves onto our College Campuses with the sole intent of Spreading HIV to healthy students, faculty, and staff. We NEED to monitor the HIV + persons much better than we have been because of these and other atrocities concerning this pandemic. Understand this is only speaking of what goes on within our countries borders not places like Sub-Saharan Africa where purposefully ill manufactured ( China) condoms were placed into the population and contributed to the spread of AIDS throughout the region. In light of all of this, our age of technology will allow for a chip to be placed in those persons with AIDS which can be registered by cell phones to let others silently know the truth. No one is saying make people ashamed or marked like Cain of the Bible or Hester Prynne of the Scarlet Letter. However, as a sure precaution and protection for the innocent and unaware, this is an issue which must be addressed. Keep in mind, that within certain circles death is applied to those who would spread AIDS and that Rightly so. Remember Compassion and also remember JUSTICE. “All that glitters is NOT GOLDEN.”###

  • When you make a statement about the AIDS epidemic, and then correlate your reason for quarantine to the expense of condoms, meaning let’s save money, that is just plain cold. Rep. Price, you are heartless.

  • What she said is right out of Germany during the 30s and 40s. This kind of thinking and discussion has no place in America at any time or any place. Horrendous statements.

  • I’m also somewhat concerned that a physician (anaestheosologist) does not undestand the differnce between isolation and quarantine. You isolate someone who is sick and quarantive someone you think might be ill to see if the disease develops. Unless she knows what the word means and the ramification are even more grim.

    • Considering that the fact that HIV is never transmitted without very intimate contact (sex, injection, horizontal mother to embryo/fetus) neither isolation nor quarantine is appropriate as a means to stop the transmission of HIV.

  • People, be civilized. Do not display your ignorance so transparently!
    There are innocent people babies, young men, women, mothers with unscrupulous husbands and/or partners being afflicted world wide.
    The world is not Georgia but Georgia could be a leader in combat to an AIDS afflicted world.
    The scientific community has played an incredible role in discovering drug to combat viral infection and it has achieved great heights in drug discovery and study goals.
    Get qualified scientific and medical advice on how to organize in combating viral infection proliferation.
    Reach out to consulting medical and scientific communities at clinics. These are great sources of education before making uneducated statements leading to inhumane targeted alienation.

  • What progress is Ellis referring to when she criticized Senator Price? I see no progress in curbing the AIDS epidemic in Georgia when there are 50,000 new cases. Basic decency demands that we take this wild horse epidemic by the bit and slow it down. Basic decency might include quarantine.

    • Leota, basic decency isn’t an option in a city run by Dems/Libs. It’s just Black people suffering, gays and druggies. As Hillary would say, “What does it matter?”
      If they ended the suffering, then how could they say “Vote for me, I’ll make it better!”, and fool the fools once again?

  • What a bi*ch.

    What a screwed up couple Tom & Betty Price are. He wastes our tax dollars flying on private jets, some of it for personal reasons like having lunch with his son, and she has a total lack of regard for other human beings.

    • Couldn’t have said it better myself. But then those two are immersed in the ‘me first’ culture that Trump embodies, so it’s no surprise about her attitude. I’m just thankful she didn’t advocate killing AIDS patients.

  • Methinks that Rep. Price doesn’t get that heterosexuals, as well as those in the LGBTQI populous, are also susceptible to HIV. She thinks a quarantine should be in effect. As a medical professional, she should know better. Sadly, she doesn’t.
    As someone who was an HIV/AIDS social worker for over 25 years, I find that verbal vomit such as this is not uncommon and displays ignorance that has has no place in our society. She is allowed to think it, sadly, but she should be censored for sharing her petty thoughts aloud.

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