April 1, 2013
It's not an April Fool's joke!
Today and tomorrow the Kansas Legislature will consider a bill that would expand the authority of state and local health officials to impose isolation or quarantine on people living with HIV and other infectious diseases. But quarantine statutes are designed for dangerous diseases spread through casual contact, thus presenting a danger to overall public health.
The bill as written is offensive, stigmatizing, and does not serve to address any real public health crisis. It perpetuates outdated myths about HIV transmission and people living with HIV. There is no public health reason to lock up or quarantine people living with HIV, nor to loosen restrictions on authority to do so.
The bill, Substitute for Kansas HB-2183, will also allow testing of individuals with HIV and other diseases in "occupational exposure" circumstances without consent of the individual and without requiring that a court previously find there is a sound medical basis for the testing.
And, there is nothing to prevent a teacher, for example, who has heard a rumor that a parent of her student is HIV-positive, to demand HIV testing of a child who spits on her unbroken skin. This is outrageous.
Write Kansas legislators today to say that the current bill must be rejected or amended consistent with KDHE's stated intentions and to uphold the rights and dignity of people living with HIV. Please cc: your emails to us so we can track them at: positivewomensnetworkusa(at)gmail.com.
Click here to quickly send a letter to Kansas legislators.
If that link doesn't work, below is language you can use in your letter. Feel free to cut and paste and add anything in to personalize. Act now! Your voice is needed.
Thanks for taking action!
In sisterhood and solidarity,
Positive Women's Network -- United States of America
Send to: firstname.lastname@example.org
I write to you to express my concern about Substitute for HB 2183. Over thirty years into the epidemic, HIV remains a highly stigmatized disease and recent research demonstrates that there are still significant myths and misunderstandings about modes of HIV transmission, many of which are evident in public policy and practice.
Substitute for HB 2183 as written perpetrates stigma against people living with HIV and does not accurately reflect current medical and scientific knowledge about how HIV is and is not transmitted. It violates the rights of people living with HIV.
Further, it fails in the stated intention to strengthen protections for individuals who may be occupationally exposed to HIV, who should have timely access to post-exposure prophylaxis in those very rare situations where occupational exposure and a risk of transmission may have actually occurred, regardless of the individual's test result, because it can take several months after infection before an HIV-positive person's antibody test is reactive.
In addition, Substitute for HB 2183 does not define which settings occupational exposure is restricted to, thus allowing for any employee in any setting to claim occupational exposure and demand testing under the circumstances where they are exposed to any bodily fluid, including saliva, which does not transmit HIV. Further, the bill does not provide for counseling of individuals who are tested for HIV, referrals to necessary medical and mental health services if they are diagnosed HIV-positive, nor for protections of confidentiality upon diagnosis.
For these reasons, I urge you to reject Substitute for HB 2183 as written, or at minimum to include the following amendments:
Thank you for your consideration.
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