Column: AIDS: a new approach

By Elie Dvorin

Over the last two decades, approximately 20 million people worldwide have died of AIDS. The CDC estimates that almost half a million people with HIV or AIDS live in the United States, with more than 40,000 new cases popping up each year.

The U.S. AIDS policy has failed. Billions of dollars are spent to contain the disease but each year thousands more cases arise. AIDS is a touchy subject and because of the fine line one must walk when considering new policies, most people won’t touch it with a 10-foot pole. I’m not one of them.

The United States must institute a comprehensive three-part policy to rid the nation of this horrible disease. First, prevention education in schools and high-risk areas is imperative. Secondly, HIV tests must be conducted on any immigrant crossing into the United States. Thirdly, the United States needs to implement a quarantine system for everybody currently living with HIV or AIDS.

The only way to stop the spread of AIDS in this country is to establish a national quarantine center where HIV and AIDS patients can live the rest of their lives. Until a cure is discovered, patients can live safely and humanely together with the help of a specialized medical support staff that will service the community.

Objection: Quarantining people won’t eliminate AIDS in this country. No policy can completely eliminate AIDS over the course of one generation. Nonetheless, the spread of HIV would be greatly reduced, hopefully to the point where AIDS is no longer a significant disease in this country. If infected people did not have access to non-infected people, there would be no new cases of AIDS. By keeping infected people from being able to pass on the virus in conjunction with ongoing aggressive research for a cure, the number of new infections will be minimal, and AIDS will go the way of polio.

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Objection: This is a gross violation of civil liberties. The Nazis did things like this to the Jews and the United States did this to the Japanese. This objection is nothing more than a cheap attempt to appeal to people’s emotions. The Nazis rounded people up for the purpose of killing millions. An AIDS quarantine center will save millions of lives. In World War II, we moved the Japanese to internment camps for reasons of hysteria and ignorance, not a matter of public safety. A quarantine center is not a jail, nor is it a punishment. It is simply the only way to ensure the United States doesn’t end up becoming the next Africa. Had we done this in the early 1980s, thousands of people would not have had to die horrible, early death.

Objection: This is unprecedented and unfeasible. This is only deemed unfeasible because we, as a society, are currently unwilling to give serious consideration to such a policy. This will cost a lot of money initially, but in the long run, the cost of treating AIDS for thousands of patients is much higher. This is also not unprecedented. Minimal support for such a measure has shown up in the United States, Great Britain and other countries. In 2001, Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, a CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service Agent and a public health official in San Francisco, spoke out in favor of a quarantine system. He was immediately demonized and called every name in the book, which is what typically happens when the opposing position is too weak to be argued pound for pound.

A health risk of this magnitude forces us to reconsider the way in which we view certain civil liberties. Those that realize a quarantine center would significantly contain the spread of AIDS, but object to it on matters of principle, need to understand that they are effectively signing the death certificate of thousands of people that don’t need to die. What is popular is not always right and what is right is not always popular, but saving lives is the right thing to do.