It's hard to imagine typing that headline in 2013. But before we get to the legislation itself, I keep thinking about Frank. Back in 1990, Frank came into my office. He had AIDS, and although that wasn't what he came to see me about, it certainly showed in his intake paperwork. I remember that first evening, after the last patient had gone, when I sat with my staff and asked them how they felt about accepting him as a patient. What we knew about AIDS back then was incredibly less than we know now. We didn't know if AIDS was passed by casual contact, we didn't know the risks to other patients. We knew practically nothing.
I had hired great people. The first question to me was whether I would be willing to treat him if I was the only person in the office. My answer was simple: I'm a doctor. I took an oath. My staff said that they worked for me, and while they hadn't taken any oaths, they too were committed to any patient we might be able to help. What we knew at the time was that bleach killed the AIDS virus, so we planned his visits as the last patient of the day, and then we bleached the office.
Back then, and before, there was talk about quarantining HIV/AIDS patients. It seemed so unreasonable, especially as the information was developing that casual contact couldn't possibly spread the disease. It seemed so cruel.
It's now 2013, and we know a ton about HIV/AIDS. How it spreads, how the new drug cocktails have changed the disease from a quick death sentence to a chronic condition. The idea of quarantining HIV/AIDS is ludicrous. These human beings pose no threat to the public health. And yet, that is what Kansas is poised to do.
This is the legislation. It changes the 1988 version of the law, and if you scroll to section 2, part (b), you'll see they are striking out the section that EXCLUDES HIV/AIDS from quarantine. The state Republicans claim they'll never actually use the law to quarantine patients, but there is still this:
“We live in a very conservative state and I’m afraid there are still many people, especially in rural Kansas, that have inadequate education and understanding concerning HIV/AIDS,” said Cody Patton, Executive Director of Positive Directions (PDIKS). “My fear would not be the state uses the law as some way to move all people living with HIV/AIDS into an isolated community, but that this law could allow some county employee to use this law to justify their religious beliefs over their professional responsibilities and discriminate against people with HIV/AIDS.” Source.The Kansas Republicans would be named "worst of the week" if not for the North Dakota abortion and personhood bills that passed there, were signed by the Governor, and are going both on the ballot and to court.
It saddens and appalls me to write a post like this. Every time I read about yet another nasty, inhumane and stupid thing the Republicans are doing, I just want to scream. I keep thinking I'll become immune to their escapades, but the rising bile never seems to cease. HIV/AIDS patients are no more communicable than cancer or heart disease patients, and they are far less contagious than people with colds, flu and viruses. I have my philosophical questions about whether hell exists, but I am convinced that if it does, there's a special ring reserved there for today's Republicans.