Maryland comptroller and former governor William Donald Schaefer last week told the acting administrator of the state's AIDS Administration that taxpayers should be told the names of HIV-positive people in the state, reported The Gazette Weekend Edition, which covers Frederick, Montgomery, and Prince George's counties. "What's wrong with identifying them by name?" Schaefer asked Naomi Tomoyasu, who heads the AIDS bureau. "They don't get AIDS by standing in the wind," he continued, suggesting that because taxpayers pay millions for anti-HIV treatments concerning low-income state residents, they deserve to know the names of the people receiving those treatments. Tomoyasu responded that Maryland residents at risk for HIV infection would be far less likely to seek HIV antibody testing and counseling if the names of those testing positive were made public.
A coalition of 10 AIDS and human rights groups on Monday released a statement condemning Schaefer's remarks. "Making public the names of those living with HIV would in no way better the state of Maryland, its citizens, or those infected or affected by HIV," the groups said. "It would, in fact, have a detrimental effect, causing fears of discrimination among people with HIV and those who should be tested, thus discouraging interactions with the health care system. Such a policy would also open the doors to blacklisting and a return to medical McCarthyism that has stalled progress to defeat other diseases in history."
The AIDS groups also were sharply critical of Schaefer's comments about people not contracting HIV by "standing in the wind." They stated, "The comptroller's comments...are viewed by this coalition as an insult to those of our neighbors who live with this disease every day. We condemn the comptroller's comments as a simplified overgeneralization, inflammatory and insensitive to people courageously living with a life-threatening disease."
The statement was released by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, Equality Maryland, Moveable Feast of Baltimore, Chase Brexton Health Services, Health Education Resource Organization, AIDS Interfaith Residential Services, the Whitman-Walker Clinic, AIDS Action Baltimore, the Human Rights Campaign, and the National Association of People with AIDS.