Kan. lawmakers approve bill that repeals ban on quarantining AIDS, HIV patients

Staff and Wire Reports

TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas state lawmakers have approved a bill to protect medical and emergency workers that also repeals a 25-year-old ban on quarantining AIDS and HIV patients.

The bill is headed to Gov. Sam Brownback after both chambers approved it Friday night. The votes were 36-2 in the Senate and 120-0 in the House.

The provision repealing the 1988 law protecting AIDS and HIV patients faced strong criticism from gay rights advocates and civil libertarians who claim that language in the bill wasn’t enough to protect AIDS and HIV patients from potential discrimination.

Kansas Department of Health and Environment officials said that even without a specific ban, state law prevents quarantines unless they are reasonable and medically necessary — conditions that cannot be met for AIDS and HIV patients.

The final version of the bill repeals those limits on quarantines, but critics said such language wasn’t enough to protect AIDS and HIV patients from potential discrimination.

The bill directs the state health department to draft rules making it easier for medical and emergency workers to learn if they’ve been exposed to infectious diseases.

Health department officials on Thursday promised legislators and critics that its new rules would continue the ban, even though it would no longer be written into state law.

Agency officials said even without a ban, it would never be medically necessary to quarantine AIDS or HIV patients.

Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and Western Missouri still has concerns, and lobbyist Holly Weatherford said the group will address them when the state health department writes the rules.

Weatherford said her group worries that the bill would allow state and local health officials to force people who come in contact with medical personnel or emergency workers to be tested in a broad set of circumstances.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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