Maryland Comptroller Calls for Registry of HIV-Positive People, Saying They Pose ‘A Danger’
Maryland Comptroller William Schaefer (D) on Tuesday defended his call for a public registry to list the names of HIV-positive people in the state and said that HIV-positive people are "a danger," the Washington Post reports. Schaefer, former Maryland governor, last week asked the state AIDS administrator during a Board of Public Works meeting why she has not established a public registry listing HIV-positive residents, according to the Post. When asked on Tuesday in an interview to explain his remarks, Schaefer said, "As far as I'm concerned, people who have AIDS are a danger. They're a danger to spread AIDS. People should be able to know who has AIDS. It costs an awful lot of money to treat them." Schaefer added that HIV-positive people only contract the virus through "risky behavior," according to the Post. "They bring it on themselves," he said, adding, "They don't get it by sitting on the toilet seat. ... A person who gives AIDS, who spreads AIDS, they're bad people. Everybody wants to be on the good side of everything. Well, I'm taking a stand." Schaefer in the 1990s pushed a proposal that would have established a public HIV registry, but the measure was defeated three times by the state Legislature. Although Maryland tracks AIDS cases using names, the list is not published or publicly accessible, according to the Post.
Naomi Tomoyasu, acting director of the Maryland AIDS Administration, said that the list is not public because the state wants "to encourage people to come in and get tested and get care." She added that several studies suggest that some people will seek HIV testing only if it is anonymous. However, Schaefer said the assertion that HIV-positive people will not seek testing and treatment if they do not remain anonymous is "propaganda" because "they don't want to die." David Haltiwanger, director of clinical programs at a Baltimore public health clinic, said he thought Schaefer was "merely ignorant" when he mentioned the HIV registry at the meeting last week. "[N]ow it seems he's done a good job of clarifying that his thinking was as hostile and ill-informed as his initial comments suggested," Haltiwanger added. Dan Furmasky, executive director of Equality Maryland -- a gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender advocacy group -- said, "That someone who holds his position could make such insensitive remarks and advocate such draconian policies and show such a complete level of ignorance, and yet feel that he is equipped to speak on the issue -- I'm just dumbfounded" (Mosk, Washington Post, 10/13).