Editorial Roundup: Tennessee

Johnson City Press. January 29, 2023.

Editorial: State is playing terrible games with HIV funding

By rejecting federal aid for HIV prevention, our leaders in Tennessee are once again cutting off the state’s nose to spite our face.

In the latest round of destructive political gamesmanship in Nashville, the state’s Department of Health and Human Services announced earlier this month that the state would reject $2 million in grant funding from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention intended to pay for testing, prevention and treatment of HIV.

That rejection, which will leave several nonprofits without federal funding, comes after internal documents reported by the Associated Press show Tennessee officials tried to cut health services provider Planned Parenthood from the list of recipients.

Planned Parenthood includes abortion services among the many health services it provides elsewhere in the country, but after the Supreme Court decision last year handing the issue of abortion legality back the states, cannot legally provide the services in Tennessee.

Gov. Bill Lee said the state would continue to support HIV prevention, but said the focus would shift to first responders, victims of human trafficking and mothers and children. The current federal prevention programs prioritize men in same-sex relationships and transgender people, particularly those in communities of color, because they are at the greatest risk of HIV.

The politics of the situation are evident here.

In a state dominated at every governmental level by social conservatives, our petty leaders are setting the screws even tighter into any specter of progressivism lingering in the air in Nashville.

This unnecessary posturing would be humorous if it wasn’t, like so many of the initiatives coming from the capital city these days, going to put Tennesseans’ lives and quality of life on the line.

Our own Sen. Rusty Crowe is chair of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee. He could and should use the position to take the Department of Health to task on this disgraceful decision, but we’re not holding our breath.