Elton John has condemned Georgia state Rep. Betty Price (R), the wife of former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, for her suggestion that people with HIV could be quarantined and for their sexual partners to be surveilled by the government because they are living longer than used to.
Rep. Price, a physician, made the shocking remarks while questioning Dr. Pascale Wortley, the director of the HIV Epidemiology Section for Georgia Department of Health, at a Tuesday Georgia House commission meeting about improving state residents’ access to healthcare.
“(B)efore you proceed if you wouldn’t mind commenting on the surveillance of partners, tracking of contacts, that sort of thing. What are we legally able to do?” asked Price.
“And I don’t want to say the quarantine word,” she added, “but I guess I just said it. 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. What would you advise or are there any methods legally that we could do that would curtail the spread?”
Price appeared to suggest that Georgia should lock up HIV-positive people and subject their sexual partners to government tracking in an effort to save the state money on HIV prevention and treatment.
Part of her concerned seemed to be based on medical advances that allow HIV-positive people to live longer, healthier lives.
“It seems to me it’s almost frightening the number of people who are living that are potentially carriers, well not carriers, with the potential to spread, whereas in the past they died more readily and at that point they are not posing a risk. So we’ve got a huge population posing a risk if they are not in treatment,” Price said.
The singer and founder of the Elton John AIDS Foundation issued a statement after video surfaced of Price’s remarks.
“Price’s comments about people living with HIV are horrific, discriminatory, and astonishingly ill-informed,” John’s statement read. “As a doctor and elected official from a state where people are still contracting HIV at an alarming rate, Mrs. Price should know better than to demonize people and perpetuate myths that stigmatize people living with HIV.”
“Her words smack of a dark time when there was little or no information about HIV and people were afraid of each other,” John said in the statement. “Today, thanks to scientific advancements, growing acceptance and love, people living with HIV are living longer, healthier lives. We also know people living with HIV pose no public threat.”
“Mrs. Price should educate herself about HIV and use her position of power to provide support, resources and compassion to her constituents,” John said. “Love is the cure. Not quarantines.”
Price’s husband recently resigned from his post at HHS amid federal investigations into his use of private jets for government travel.