Biden to Nominate African Doctor to Lead PEPFAR

President Joe Biden intends to nominate Dr. John N. Nkengasong to lead the global fight against HIV/AIDS.
WikiMedia Commons/CDC Global

President Joe Biden plans to nominate renowned African virologist Dr. John N. Nkengasong to lead the fight in ending the global HIV/AIDS epidemic, according to a White House statement released on September 27.

Nkengasong, a US citizen hailing from Cameroon, would also make history as the first person of African descent in this role. If confirmed by the US Senate, Nkengasong would become the ambassador-at-large and coordinator of United States government activities to combat HIV/AIDS globally at the State Department. He would oversee and manage the president’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR.

Currently, the doctor heads the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. He formerly served as the acting deputy director at the US CDC’s Center for Global Health and was a board member for the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative in New York.

In a statement, Dr. Penninah Iutung, the Africa Bureau Chief for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), praised the president’s nomination.

“We believe Dr. Nkengasong is well suited to lead PEPFAR because his tireless efforts in fighting COVID-19 as the head of ACDC are widely praised across Africa. As a virologist, he understands both the HIV and the COVID-19 pandemics and has the requisite managerial and scientific credentials to successfully lead PEPFAR,” Iutung said in a written statement. “We hope the US Senate will fully support Dr. Nkengasong’s nomination and move quickly to confirm his appointment.”

Iutung added, “To date, PEPFAR has saved millions of lives, most of them across Africa, and during the ongoing pandemic it is also providing indispensable COVID-19 relief. With Dr. Nkengasong at the helm, PEPFAR will continue its legacy of lifesaving humanitarian work funded by the generosity of the American people.”