Elton John criticizes Betty Price’s HIV quarantine remarks

No one at the Georgia State Capitol publicly supports any sort of quarantine for people with HIV/AIDS. But now, critics of Roswell Republican state Rep. Betty Price are saying perhaps she should be placed in quarantine, due to her comments in a state meeting last week.

Price is facing a mountain of criticism after she asked, at a meeting at the State Capitol this past Thursday, about putting Georgia’s HIV patients in quarantine.

“My thinking sometimes goes in strange directions, but… The surveillance of partners, tracking of contacts, that sort of thing– what are we legally able to do? I don’t want to say the quarantine word, but I guess I just said it. Is there an ability? Since, I would guess that public dollars are expended heavily in prophylaxis and treatment of this condition… we have a public interest in curtailing the spread. What would you advise, or are there any methods legally that we could do that would curtail the spread?”

“I was actually shocked to hear that in this day and age,” said Nicole Roebuck, executive director of AID Atlanta. “Even the suggestion — or the question — raised a lot of anger and anxiety for lots of advocates and for lots of people who are living with HIV and AIDS.”

Roebuck, and Jeff Graham of Georgia Equality in Atlanta, say they hope Price will agree to meet with people living with HIV, and apologize personally.

There are some 50,000 HIV patients across the state now, most of them in metro Atlanta, according to the state Department of Public Health.

RELATED | Price: HIV quarantine remark was ‘provocative’; ‘rhetorical’

Price, married to former U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, calls that number, “almost frightening.”

“Whereas, in the past, they died more readily, and at that point they’re not posing a risk,” Price said.

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Musician and part-time Atlanta resident Elton John, founder of the Elton John AIDS Foundation, says Price’s comments are “horrific, discriminatory, and astonishingly ill-informed.”

“Rep. Betty Price’s comments about people living with HIV are horrific, discriminatory, and astonishingly ill-informed. As a doctor and elected official from a state where people are still contracting HIV at an alarming rate, Mrs. Price should know better than to demonize people and perpetuate myths that stigmatize people living with HIV.

Her words smack of a dark time when there was little or no information about HIV and people were afraid of each other. Today, thanks to scientific advancements, growing acceptance and love, people living with HIV are living longer, healthier lives. We also know people living with HIV pose no public threat.

We at the Elton John AIDS Foundation, along with several of our partners, are aggressively working in Georgia and across the South to expand access to universal testing and treatment, particularly in rural areas. We also are working to dismantle the structural barriers including poverty, inadequate education, persistent HIV stigma, racism, homophobia and transphobia that impede progress. Instead of perpetuating fear and bias, Mrs. Price should educate herself about HIV and use her position of power to provide support, resources and compassion to her constituents. Love is the cure. Not quarantines.”

GLAAD says, “We find these comments reprehensible. We demand a full apology.”

We find these comments reprehensible. We demand a full apology. https://t.co/SokSeyJyFS pic.twitter.com/7QhA2Fixq4

— GLAAD (@glaad) October 20, 2017

The Human Rights Campaign says, “Betty Price should resign. This level of ignorance and bigotry from an elected official is disgraceful.”

At the State Capitol, with the legislature on break until January, Price was not in her office to receive the flood of calls and emails from angry people from across the country and beyond who advocate care, counseling, education, treatment for people with HIV — and more of it, and making it more readily available to those who need it.

© 2017 WXIA

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