Do public health officials need to be political activists? A fight over an HIV crisis renews the question

Most local health officials do not accept their jobs and expect to be politically correct.

During the Covid-19 era, however, politics became a major factor in the definitions of the work of health professionals. In Washington, state researcher Anthony Fauci has openly opposed former President Trump. In many cities and provinces, local health departments were forced to break away from administrators who opposed anti-coronavirus strategies such as business closures or masks.

A series of controversies raised the question of whether, in order to work, local health officials needed to include politics in their daily routine. And while wars have been called for in the midst of the epidemic, they have also emerged in regions that are otherwise recommended for their coronavirus response, such as West Virginia.
There, the energy used was played out in the context of the worst outbreak in the nation linked to the use of injectable drugs. This month, as local authorities struggle to prevent further spread, the state legislature banned one of their most effective tools for this: the exchange of sterile needles that distribute sterile needles to drug users puts them at greater risk of infection.

“Working seven days a week on things outside of our professional environment, political turmoil against popular strategies – has affected the whole country for our public health workers,” said Michael Kilkenny, chief executive officer of the Department of Health in Cabell-Huntington West Virginia, serving the devastated city of Huntington. It’s frustrating, and we see the consequences. ”
Like it or not, the involvement of local political officials in western politics and Virginia has increased slightly since 2018, when Charleston, the largest city, closed its only needlestick trade.

This month, several local officials vehemently opposed a controversial bill aimed at tightening control of the exchange program, but the state Senate eventually approved a 27-7 vote.

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