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Controversy over bill that would quarantine Kansans with HIV/AIDS

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MISSION, KS (KCTV) -

A bill working its way through the Kansas Legislature is getting national attention. The original version of the bill would have allowed the state to quarantine people with HIV or AIDS.

The latest version of Senate Bill 2183 has lines through much of the text. The bill had to be amended after questions were raised as to whether those living with the disease had to be kept away from the general public.

Sen. Laura Kelly, a Topeka Democrat, insists that the bill was not deliberately written to target people with HIV and AIDS.

"I don't think that there is malice and intent on the part of our agency. I think what they're trying to do is consolidate and clean up statutes relating to infectious diseases," Kelly said.

Kelly, who sits on the committee for Health and Human Services, amended the bill in a conference committee late Wednesday afternoon to ensure that HIV and AIDS patients were not subject to quarantine, like those with tuberculosis.

Kelly included the words, "medically necessary and reasonable" under the statute which would give the Secretary of Health the power to issue such an order.

"We're expecting that it will make it very clear that is never medically necessary or reasonable to quarantine or isolate someone with HIV or AIDS," she said.

The initial language in the bill raised a red flag for Gary Brunk, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union.

"In some ways, this is a throwback to the early days of the HIV epidemic where people had crazy ideas about casual transmission of HIV," Brunk said.

But even with the new changes, Brunk is still unsettled.

"We remain concerned primarily because we think that this has a real potential for giving local health officials a tool to discriminate against people infected with HIV," he said.

Others remain equally incredulous to the notion that casual HIV transmission is still perceived as an issue.

"It's kind of antiquated. There were a lot of perceptions when HIV became a disease that I think we all understand today aren't," Jon Niemuth said.

Others opposed to isolation, like Kaitlin Rounds, say it is not necessary to quarantine someone to prevent them from spreading it.

The bill will now go through the administrative rules and regulations process. That will likely happen in the next legislative session.

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