HIV-Positive? You Probably Don’t Want To Be In Kansas Anymore
My college best friend and I coined the term “bipolar week.” It was used to describe a week filled with both overwhelmingly amazing events and truly terrible moments: winning a prestigious award and then getting dumped by your boyfriend, or perhaps acing a midterm and losing a childhood pet. When reflecting on this past week, in terms of LGBT rights, I could really only describe it as a week “having or relating to two poles or extremities.” The highs: two cases before the Supreme Court to treat gays and lesbians like, you know, actual people.
The low you ask? Well the low can be found in Kansas. It’s so ridiculous it might as well be a perverse Oz: a bill passed in the State Senate which has language that would quarantine those who are HIV-positive or have AIDS. I would insert a Judy Garland joke about being a gay icon, but this is really not a laughing matter. It’s completely f**ked!
Though the myth that HIV and AIDS are “gay diseases” has been debunked for years, LGBT activists are nonetheless worried. Executive director of the Kansas Equality Coalition, Thomas Witt told ThinkProgress:
“Our state’s health department is willing to roll back a 25-year old civil rights protection. LGBT Kansans are already subject to harassment and legal discrimination, and removing the existing HIV quarantine exemption from law leaves vulnerable Kansans at risk of discriminatory, unfair treatment by local officials.”
Others like Cody Patton of Positive Directions told Gay Star News, “We live in a very conservative state and I’m afraid there are still many people, especially in rural Kansas, that have inadequate education and understanding concerning HIV/AIDS.”
Patton’s fear has legs. Earlier this year, HIV testing was eliminated in most counties by Kansas’s health department. So, let me process this. First Kansas makes it difficult to get tested, and then if you are tested and positive for HIV, you could be quarantined? Where’s the incentive to know, get treatment and not spread the virus? As far as sexual health goes, this is a travesty.
Though the measure has been approved by the Kansas’ state senate, the Department of Heath and Environment — the ones responsible for the quarantine language — said they’d be willing to sit down LGBT activist groups and rehash issues with this law. At least there’s a ruby slipper’s glimmer of hope in all of this. Maybe Kansas will be given a brain and the courage to do what’s right.
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