Betty Price, a Republican state representative in Georgia and a physician who is married to former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, came under fire last week after using the term “quarantine” when asked about ways to curtail the spread of HIV. Now Elton John — the rock Hall of Famer, LGBTQ advocate and founder of the Elton John AIDS Foundation — is adding his voice to the chorus of those criticizing Price.
"Rep. Betty Price's comments about people living with HIV are horrific, discriminatory, and astonishingly ill-informed," John said in a statement emailed to NBC News. "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.”
During a Georgia House of Representatives committee meeting on health care access last week, Price asked a question 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 to Dr. Pascale Wortley, director of the Georgia Department of Public Health’s HIV epidemiology section, during the Oct. 17 meeting, which was recorded on video. “Are there any methods legally that we could do that would curtail the spread?”
In his statement, John said Price’s words “smack of a dark time when there was little or no information about HIV and people were afraid of each other.”
“Instead of perpetuating fear and bias, Mrs. Price should educate herself about HIV and use her position of power to provide support, resources and compassion to her constituents. Love is the cure. Not quarantines,” John added.
Following criticism from health advocates and LGBTQ activists, Price shared a statement with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Saturday, saying her comments were "taken completely out of context.”
“I made a provocative and rhetorical comment as part of a free-flowing conversation which has been taken completely out of context," Price said. "I do not support a quarantine in this public health challenge and dilemma of undertreated HIV patients."
Georgia had the second-highest rate of new HIV diagnoses in the nation in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. From 2012 to 2014, the state's age-adjusted HIV death rates were almost twice as high as the national average.