People with HIV should be quarantined, and the U.S. would be safer if they “died more readily,” according to Betty Price, a Republican state representative and wife of former Health Secretary Tom Price.
The Georgia-state lawmaker and former anesthesiologist, who now represents people who live in the northern Atlanta area, was asked in a hearing what the U.S. is “legally able to do” to limit the spread of HIV throughout the state.
“It’s almost frightening, the number of people who are living that are carriers with the potential to spread,” Price said during a Georgia House of Representatives committee meeting on access to health care in the state (around the one-hour mark of the video). “Whereas in the past, they died more readily, and at that point they’re not posing a risk. So we’ve got a huge population posing a risk if they’re not in treatment.”
Price also said that while she didn’t necessarily want to quarantine people with HIV, that is exactly what she wants to do.
“I don’t want to say the quarantine word—but I guess I just said it,” Price said to Dr. Pascale Wortley, director of the Georgia Department of Public Health’s HIV epidemiology section, according to STAT News.
“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. … Are there any methods legally that we could do that would curtail the spread?”
In 2014, about 50,000 people were diagnosed with HIV in the state—the second-highest rate of new diagnoses among all states the following year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Price’s “incredibly disturbing” comments were condemned for perpetuating “the stigma that still exists around HIV,” Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality.
“It’s very troubling to hear comments like that,” he told STAT News. “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 Representative 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.”
Price's husband, Tom, was the health secretary under President Donald Trump who has faced his own share of condemnation. Price, who served less than a year, was forced to resign after facing criticism for taking private planes at the taxpayers' expense.