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    Grant Colfax, Former Obama AIDS Policymaker, Appointed Director of SF Department of Public Health

    During her State of the City address on January 30 before a cheering crowd at 170 Valencia Street (the new home for the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus and a National LGBTQ Center for the Arts), Mayor London Breed announced the appointment of Dr. Grant Colfax as the new Director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH).

    Dr. Colfax, a Harvard College graduate who did his residency at UCSF, previously worked at SFDPH as Director of HIV Prevention and Research before leaving to join the Obama White House as the Director of National AIDS Policy. Currently the Director of Marin Health and Human Services, Dr. Colfax will assume his new position in mid-February.

    During the address, Mayor Breed said of Dr. Colfax: “He knows our city and its challenges, and he is ready to get to work. And he knows that we need to get to zero HIV infections in San Francisco.”

    Explaining his interest in fighting HIV/AIDS, Dr. Colfax previously told the San Francisco AIDS Foundation (SFAF) that “there was no one specific moment” when the effort became important in his life. He continued, “As a gay man coming of age in the mid 1980s, HIV/AIDS was the defining issue in the community. My decision to attend medical school and focus professionally on HIV research and prevention emerged not only from the experience of having lost so many friends to the disease, but also because it was clear that there was so much more we needed to know and do to effectively combat the epidemic.”

    Dr. Colfax has also been a leader in addressing problems related to flavored tobacco and vaping products, which often are marketed toward and used by youth. In November of last year, with the urging of Dr. Colfax and many of his colleagues, the Marin County Board of Supervisors passed a ban on such products. It will take effect for most retailers on July 1. (Specialty tobacco stores in Marin County have until January 1, 2020, to implement the ban.)

    But the fight to end the threat of HIV/AIDS will clearly be a focus of Dr. Colfax’s work in San Francisco. There is often overlap with other diseases, such that numerous treatments for cancer, hepatitis, heart disease and more have arisen from HIV/AIDS research. As Dr. Colfax told the SFAF: “My hope is that we will live to see the day where HIV is rare, when it does occur is readily treated and cured, and that the lessons learned from this epidemic will be applied to addressing other epidemics and health disparities.”