A Georgia state lawmaker, who is married to former U.S. Health Secretary Tom Price, asked during a legislative committee meeting about the possibility of quarantining people with HIV.
Following widespread criticism, state Rep. Betty Price, a Republican whose district includes parts of Atlanta's northern suburbs, said her remarks were taken out of context.
In a video from a public health meeting about stopping the spread of HIV, Price can be seen asking Dr. Pascale Wortley: “What are we legally able to do? I don't want to say the quarantine word, 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. Are there any methods, legally, that we could do that would curtail the spread?”
Like her husband, who resigned last month as Health and Human Services secretary following an outcry over his use of costly private planes for official travel, Betty Price is a doctor.
Her legislative biography says she worked as an anesthesiologist for more than two decades, served on the boards of the Medical Association of Atlanta and the Medical Association of Georgia and is a past president of the American Medical Women's Association in Atlanta.
Project Q Atlanta, a website serving the city's gay community, was the first to report Price's comments, but not the last.
Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest LGBTQ civil rights group, said, “Betty Price should resign. This bigotry and ignorance from an elected official is beyond outrageous.”
Elton John, founder of the Elton John AIDS Foundation, said in a news release, "Rep. Betty Price's comments about people living with HIV are horrific, discriminatory, and astonishingly ill-informed. 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."
He continued, "Her words smack of a dark time when there was little or no information about HIV and people were afraid of each other."
Over the weekend, Price said her comments were “taken completely out of context.”
She told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that she was just being “provocative” and “rhetorical.”
“I do not support a quarantine in this public health challenge and dilemma of undertreated HIV patients,” Price said in a statement. “I do, however, wish to light a fire under all of us with responsibility in the public health arena — a fire that will result in resolve and commitment to ensure that all of our fellow citizens with HIV will receive, and adhere to, a treatment regimen that will enhance their quality of life and protect the health of the public. I look forward to continuing to work with all to accomplish this goal.”