Huckabee’s “Isolation” vs. Quarantine: What’s The Difference?

Jim Burroway

December 9th, 2007

Former Arkansas governor and GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee appeared on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace to deny that he said we should quarantine all AIDS patients. But he stood by his statements calling for isolating “the carriers” of AIDS.

Here is my quick transcript:

Chris, I didn’t say that we should quarantine. I said it was the first time in public health protocols that when we had an infectious disease and we didn’t really know just how extensive and how dramatic it could be and the impact of it, that we didn’t isolate the carrier. Now the headlines yesterday started saying that that I called for quarantines, which, if you go back and read my comments, I did not.

I simply made the point, and I still believe this today, that in the late eighties and early nineties when we didn’t know as much that we do now about AIDS, we were acting more out of political correctness than we were out of the normal public health protocols that we would have acted as we have recently, for example, with Avian Flu…

Chris Wallace called him on that, noting that as far back as in 1985, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had already established that AIDS could not be spread by casual contact. This was seven years before Huckabee’s statement. Huckabee didn’t back down:

Would I say things a little differently in 2007? Probably so, but I’m not going to recant or retract from the statement that I did make, because, again, the point was not saying we ought to lock people up who have HIV/AIDS. I knew people who had AIDS. I had a close friend who had died of it in the 1980’s. He was a hemophiliac; he had contracted it through a blood transfusion. I had other friends of mine, one of whom passed away, he was in fact homosexual.

But my point is, I was trying to talk about different public health protocols we were dealing with. I think what it really does show though is that when people are digging back into everything I have ever said and done — and I understand that, it’s part of the political process. But what I’m not going to do is to go back and now try to change every story that I’ve ever had. I’m going to simply say that is exactly what I said, I don’t run from it, don’t recant from it. Would I say it a little differently today? Sure, in light of fifteen years of additional knowledge and understanding I would.

Huckabee opened his statement saying “Chris, I didn’t say that we should quarantine.” Here is what he wrote to the Associated Press in 1992. What do you think?

If the federal government is truly serious about doing something with the AIDS virus, we need to take steps that would isolate the carriers of this plague.

It is difficult to understand the public policy towards AIDS. It is the first time in the history of civilization in which the carriers of a genuine plague have not been isolated from the general population, and in which this deadly disease for which there is no cure is being treated as a civil rights issue instead of the true health crisis it represents.

The CDC’s 1992 AIDS Surveillance Report (PDF: 1.2MB/23 pages) counted 253,448 people with AIDS, with unknown numbers more infected with HIV at the time. With those figures documented as of 1992, I’m hard-pressed to understand what the distinction is supposed to be between calling for a quarantine and “isolating the carriers” from the general population. Princeton University’s Wordnet can’t seem to find a distinction either:

Noun

  • S: (n) quarantine (enforced isolation of patients suffering from a contagious disease in order to prevent the spread of disease)
  • S: (n) quarantine (isolation to prevent the spread of infectious disease)

Verb

  • S: (v) quarantine (place into enforced isolation, as for medical reasons) “My dog was quarantined before he could live in England”

And neither can the folks at Merk:

quarantine (quar·an·tine) (kwor´É™n-tÄ“n, kwahr´É™n-tÄ“n) [Ital. quarantina, from L. quadraginta forty] 1. restriction of freedom of movement of apparently well individuals who have been exposed to infectious disease, which is imposed for the usual maximal incubation period of the disease (quarantine period). Cf. surveillance (def. 2). 2. a period (originally of 40 days’ duration) of detention of vessels, vehicles, or travelers coming from infected or suspected ports or places. 3. the place where persons are detained for inspection. 4. to detain or isolate on account of suspected contagion.

HIV has an incubation period of six to twelve years before the onset of AIDS. AIDS is treatable but not curable. Given those facts which were also known in 1992, how long would Huckabee’s proposed “isolation” have been enforced? A lifetime?

Timothy Kincaid

December 9th, 2007

With 253,448 people suffering from AIDS and even more with HIV, where would you isolate these people? That’s so many you’d have to set up some sort of camp, wouldn’t you?

In WWII we only “isolated” 110,000 Japanese and that took several camps. And what a high point of our history, that was!

Jason

December 10th, 2007

translation….
“God, I say some stupid things. But you know, we did do things differently during a crisis than we had in the past. and I know some people who died of AIDS, so I’m not a bad guy. You know who the bad guys are, the people who are fact-checking my past, looking for every stupid comment I made, every fowl-up, every ignorant suggestion about something I haven’t researched well enough to state a public opinion on. Those people are the bad guys, because really, who has time to look up all the dumb things someone says? Bad guys do, that’s who.”

Jennifer

January 22nd, 2010

I think what Mr. Huckabee said was brillant. Quarantine is forcing someone to a location and making them stay there. You can isolate hiv/aids pts. without actually forcing them to a central location. For example. if you tatooed a large A on the forehead of every infected person you would isolate them from society but not quarantine them. If the CDC kept a searchable database of every aids pt open to the public it would isolate them but not quarantine. If you made HIV/ AIDS testing mandatory in this country for all who live here and all who enter and isolate the carriers so that the general publis is well aware of them and they can in no way ad thier affliction the HIV/AIDS virus would die and no longer be a problem.

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