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State Rep. Responds After Criticism Over 'Quarantine' Comment

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State Rep. Responds After Criticism Over 'Quarantine' Comment

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A Georgia state representative is under fire after using the term "quarantine" when asking about methods to curtail the spread of HIV.

Republican State Rep. Betty Price, a former anesthesiologist who is married to former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, asked during a study meeting about what officials are "legally able to do" to limit the spread of HIV throughout the state.

"I don't want to say the quarantine word, but I guess I just said it," Price said during the Oct. 17 meeting, which was recorded on video.

The remarks were met with swift criticism from health advocates and LGBTQ activists, who accused the lawmaker of feeding fear and stigma around the virus.

In a statement shared with the Atlanta Journal Constitution Saturday, Price said her comments were "taken completely out of context" and that she was merely being "provocative."

"I do not support a quarantine in this public health challenge and dilemma of undertreated HIV patients," she said.

Price's initial comments came as part of a Georgia House of Representatives meeting about barriers to health care access, in which she and other lawmakers were questioning Pascale Wortley, the director of the HIV epidemiology section at the Georgia Department of Public Health.

"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," she said. "Are there any methods legally that we could do that would curtail the spread?"

During the meeting, Price also expressed fear at the high number of people living with HIV, implying that patients pose more of a public health risk now because they live longer.

"It's almost frightening the number of people who are living that are … carriers with the potential to spread," Price said during the hearing. "Whereas in the past, they died more readily, and then 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."

Georgia had the second highest rate of new HIV diagnoses among all states in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control. From 2012 to 2014, age-adjusted HIV death rates were almost twice as high as the national average.

Jeff Graham, executive director of the LGBT advocacy group Georgia Equality, said that Price's comments were a sign of the stigma that still exists around HIV.

"It's very troubling to hear comments like that," he told STAT. "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."

Price, who represents the northern Atlanta suburbs of Roswell and Alpharetta, was elected to the state house in 2015. She did not immediately respond to requests for comment from NBC News.

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