Dr. Grant Colfax speaks with former President Barack Obama, July 26, 2012. (Photo Courtesy Obama Whitehouse Flickr stream)

Mayor appoints former Obama AIDS policymaker to lead SF Public Health Department

Dr. Grant Colfax, a former Obama White House official, has been tapped to lead the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

Mayor London Breed made the announcement during her State of The City address Wednesday. Colfax previously worked for the department as the director of HIV Prevention and Research and left to join President Barack Obama’s administration as the Director of National AIDS Policy.

“He knows our city and its challenges, and he is ready to get to work,” Breed said. “And he knows that we need to get to zero HIV infections in San Francisco.”

She continued, “We need to reach our most vulnerable populations, particularly our African-American and Latino communities who are not seeing their HIV infection rates drop as others do. This means getting everyone — and I mean everyone — access to services, treatment, and preventative medication like PrEP.”

State Senator Scott Wiener lauded Colfax’s appointment in a statement, Wednesday.

“Mayor Breed made an inspired choice,” Wiener said.

Calling Colfax “exceptional,” Wiener added, “he has my complete confidence in moving San Francisco toward our goal of zero new HIV infections, zero deaths from HIV, and zero HIV stigma.”

Colfax is a graduate of Harvard Medical School and completed his medical residency at the University of California, San Francisco, according to a White House press statement, which called him “one of the nation’s leading public health policy experts.”

Colfax arrives at a time when Breed’s stated health priorities include safe injection sites for people to inject drugs under medical supervision and to expand conservatorships for the chronically homeless.

The City searched for the new health director after the former director, Barbara Garcia, resigned in August amidst a City Attorney’s Office investigation into a potential conflict of interest over health contracts with a university where her wife was employed.

Garcia’s service with the department spanned nearly two decades. She joined the department 1999 and was selected as the department’s director in 2011 by then-Mayor Gavin Newsom.

Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez contributed to this report.

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