Topeka — A proposal by the state health department could result in the quarantine of people with AIDS or HIV, the leader of a gay and lesbian rights group said Thursday.
"There is no reason why anybody with HIV or AIDS should be subject to quarantine," said Tom Witt, executive director of the Kansas Equality Coalition. "This is a civil rights issue," Witt told the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee.
But Paul Marx, an associate chief counsel with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said there would be no medical reason to isolate or quarantine a person infected with HIV or suffering from AIDS.
But Marx added, "I can't say that would never happen, if the virus were to mutate." He added, however, "That is hugely speculative."
The dispute is over House Bill 2183, which clarifies procedures on testing a patient for communicable diseases when a health care worker has been exposed to that patient's blood or bodily fluids.
Witt said he supported efforts to protect emergency personnel, but said one of the changes in the bill would remove a current provision that exempts those with HIV or AIDS from possible quarantine.
KDHE officials said they want to remove that exemption because HIV and AIDS are infectious.
"KDHE is very sensitive to the concerns expressed by Mr. Witt. There is no intent, no desire to discriminate," Marx said.
The committee took no action on the bill.