ATLANTA — Georgia state Rep. Betty Price says her comments suggesting that people with HIV might be quarantined to curb the spread of the infectious disease — which ignited a national firestorm — were “taken completely out of context.”
Price, the wife of former U.S. Health Secretary Tom Price, was in a legislative committee meeting Tuesday when she asked a state health official whether people with HIV could legally be quarantined.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports Price said she was just being “provocative.”
In a statement to the newspaper, Price said, “I do not support a quarantine in this public health challenge and dilemma of under-treated HIV patients.”
The Republican lawmaker and former anesthesiologist said a health official had presented data showing Georgia as second only to Louisiana in the rate of new infections. Part of the reason is that more than a third of Georgians with HIV are not receiving care for it. She said that’s what sparked her comments.
Price said she is not in favor of a quarantine but made the “rhetorical” statement because she was troubled that “too many of our fellow citizens who have HIV are not compliant with the effective treatment of this now chronic disease.”
A spokeswoman said the Georgia Department of Public Health had no comment.
Dr. Wendy Armstrong, a professor at Emory University and medical director of the infectious disease program at Grady Health System, home of the largest HIV clinic in Georgia, said Price’s quarantine comment appeared to reflect concerns about the high number of HIV-positive patients in Georgia who carry high viral loads despite some medical attention.
“I’m glad that she publicly stated that she does not support quarantine,” Armstrong said. “However, I think that her comments (show) we have more work to do in educating our lawmakers.”
Ike Swetlitz contributed to this report.