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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
March 11, 2005

Jackson renounces his 1992 HIV quarantine bill

Cleveland--Council President Frank G. Jackson, who is running for mayor, says his proposal 13 years ago to quarantine people with AIDS who expose themselves to others was to �stimulate discussion� and make the issue �high profile.�

Jackson represents Ward 5 in the city�s Central neighborhood. He said that when he introduced the ordinance in 1992, he was the chair of the Public Health committee and a �rookie� member of council.

�I will admit I was ignorant,� said Jackson, �and as I began to learn more [about AIDS] I found out how intrusive, serious, and threatening it is. It became pretty scary.�

The ordinance became controversial for sections criminalizing the spread of HIV and calling for those convicted to be confined.

Council never acted on the measure, and it died at the end of the year.

�No person who knows that he or she has AIDS, ARC or an infectious stage of an STD, or is a carrier of HIV, and who understands the consequences of his or her actions, shall knowingly fail to take reasonable measures to prevent exposing himself or herself to others, except when seeking medical aid,� reads the ordinance.

�Any person who violates the [previous paragraph] shall be confined in a facility to be determined by the Director of Public Health until such time as the person is no longer contagious.�

The idea drew the ire of editorial writers and AIDS activists, including protests by the Cleveland chapter of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power.

�City council did not take the ordinance seriously, but we did,� said Gil Kudrin, an ACT UP organizer who was part of the 1992 actions at city hall over Jackson�s ordinance.

Kudrin said he would listen to see if Jackson held different opinions now.

Jackson said that at the time of the proposal, �HIV was serious, but not being addressed� because people were �in denial.�

He said that by the advice of the late Dr. John Carey, who was at the time director of the special immunization unit of University Hospitals, the discussion had to come to a head.

�Dr. Carey said if the issue was not better understood, and if the city continued to do nothing, there would be a crisis by 1996,� said Jackson.

Unlike other activists, Carey was not critical of Jackson or his ordinance in Plain Dealer accounts of the events.

Jackson said that bringing the issue to a head caused the city to have productive discussions on AIDS prevention and services, and to hire its first AIDS coordinator.

�It was like a sore thumb,� said Jackson, �but sometimes a sore thumb has to stick out for people to pay attention.�

Jackson said he now favors a prevention approach to the problem and is against making the spread of HIV a criminal offense.

�If it is an offense,� said Jackson, �the government gets to wash its hands [after prosecution] without dealing with the real issues.�

Jackson said he now favors three basic actions to reduce HIV, the most important being prevention education.

�It�s a basic health issue and it needs to be on the front burner in a high profile mode.�

He also said he favors education through the school systems, and being honest when discussing prevention.

�The Health Department needs to put people on the street,� said Jackson, �which it is doing now to an extent.�

 

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