Kansas politicians have been busy trying to push through a bill aimed at “public health”. In 2011, the Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources first introduced House Bill 2183. This bill was to prohibit a representative of the government from depriving any citizen of the participating states’ rights and freedoms legally granted as well as providing a guarantee that residents of those states were to be protected from government penalization for living according to their legal freedoms. This would also essentially link these states together to fight against any breach of this Act, providing “mutual assistance”.
Sounds like a great thing, right? Unfortunately, Kansas’ government officials didn’t think so, and it was denied in this original context. It seems that they didn’t want to risk being prosecuted for interfering with their residents’ freedoms. After all, that’s what the most conservative “powers that be” seem to have at the top of their agendas these days. (It makes me wonder if a town like Liberal, Kansas was meant ironically, like calling big guys “Tiny” or heavier guys “Slim”, but I digress…)
For the 2013 session this bill was once again brought out for discussion, however this time it was a totally different animal. The original document was meant to protect health care providers and their patients (see proposed 2013 language) as a lioness would protect her cubs. However in the two years since its first appearance, it would seem that our lioness contracted rabies and has turned on her young (see revised 2013 language).
The new bill is seemingly aimed at AIDS- and HIV-infected residents of Kansas. Although the term “communicable disease” is added deeper into the now seven-page document, including other diseases like pneumonic plague, cutaneous anthrax, and various childhood diseases from which typical immunizations protect us (measles, mumps, chicken pox, etc.). This bill would amend and replace the current statutes (65-6004) and (65-6001) already in place that protected not just the physician and the patient, but the patient’s privacy. The only difference between the statutes as currently written and the proposed new bill is there is no mention of quarantine in either statute whereas our newest beast is causing panic about exactly that.
As of 1901, there was a provision in place in Kansas for quarantine in the case of infectious disease, authorizing a segregation of residents who were thought to be of high health risk to the rest of the population. In 1988 this was amended to include the following language: “…the infectious or contagious disease acquired immune deficiency syndrome or any causative agent thereof shall not constitute an infectious or contagious disease for the purposes of K.S.A. 65-118, 65-119, 65-122, 65-123, 65-126 and 65-129, and amendments thereto, because such disease is subject to the provisions of K.S.A. 65-6001 through 65-6007 and amendments thereto.” To ease discomfort about this bill however, an open letter regarding its intent was released stating there is no danger of quarantine due to the current law against such an event.
This revised bill had support of politicians in Kansas, with the exception of Senator Marci Francisco (D, Lawrence). Senator Francisco stated that, since HIV/AIDS is not communicable with “casual contact” this bill only stands to offer potential harassment or discrimination to its sufferers. It seems that she may not be alone in that thinking now. Actually, the majority consensus is not that those afflicted with HIV/AIDS will be quarantined (despite the strong provision and obvious direction of the revised bill) but that those who are infected will be harassed and discriminated against. Regardless, the bill passed in the Kansas Senate.
So this is where the residents of Kansas come in to play. This bill has not yet become official. There is still time to stop it. From the Kansas Equality Coalition, “We are hearing from some members of the House of Representatives that they feel they were mislead by KDHE on this version of the bill, and are prepared to vote against it.” All they need is to know that residents want it stopped. For a complete list of state representatives, this link offers names and contact information for every single representative with the ability to vote “NO” on this bill.
I urge you to take action against such a discriminatory bill that would roll back rights for HIV/AIDS patients by 25 years. Please take the time to contact these representatives today.