A Georgia lawmaker who is married to former U.S. health and human services secretary Tom Price drew backlash after she inquired if HIV patients could be “legally” quarantined to stop the spread of the virus.
“What are we legally able to do? I don’t want to say the quarantine word, but I guess I just said it,” State Rep. Betty Price (R -Roswell) asked Tuesday during a study committee meeting on barriers to adequate health care, which was live streamed online.
Price worked as a anesthesiologist for 20 years and has served on the boards of multiple medical associations in Atlanta and the state of Georgia, according to her legislative biography.
“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,” Price went on. “Are there any methods, legally, that we could do that would curtail the spread?
“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, Price added.
The lawmaker’s comments prompted criticism online.
“Outrageous is an understatement,” former first daughter Chelsea Clinton tweeted.
Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality, told Stat News that Price’s comments were “incredibly disturbing” and shows that HIV can still have a stigma similar to the fear surrounding the disease during its initial outbreak in the 1980s.
“It’s very troubling to hear comments like that,” Graham 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,” he added.