May 6, 2022

IAVI salutes the confirmation of John Nkengasong as head of PEPFAR

Nkengasong was a founding leader of PEPFAR and served on IAVI’s board of directors.

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IAVI congratulates John Nkengasong, Ph.D., on his confirmation by the U.S. Senate as Ambassador-at-Large and Coordinator of United States Government Activities to Combat HIV/AIDS Globally at the Department of State. We commend the Biden administration on their choice of a visionary and collaborative global public health leader with broad experience addressing existing and emerging disease threats including HIV, Ebola, and COVID-19.

Dr. Nkengasong will lead the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the largest commitment by any nation to address a single disease in history. PEPFAR was started in 2003 by U.S. President George W. Bush, and since then, the U.S. government has invested more than $85 billion in more than 50 countries, saving an estimated 20 million lives. Funds distributed by PEPFAR support prevention programs, testing, and access to lifesaving antiretroviral therapy for HIV. The establishment of PEPFAR represented a paradigm shift in efforts to advance global health equity, and the lessons from PEPFAR provide insights for designing future programs to address other pressing current and emerging global health security threats.

“As one of the founding leaders of PEPFAR, Dr. Nkengasong is uniquely positioned to take the program forward in a manner that reflects his long-held personal and professional commitments to combatting epidemics through scientific innovation, equitable access to biomedical innovations, and research capacity-strengthening in countries where the impact of the HIV pandemic has been greatest, as well as efforts to reduce stigma and earn the trust of individuals and communities at risk for HIV infection,” said Mark Feinberg, M.D., Ph.D., president and CEO of IAVI. “IAVI has been very fortunate to have been able to benefit from Dr. Nkengasong’s deep and wide-ranging expertise and insights as a member of our board of directors since 2018. We look forward to his return to PEPFAR in this pivotal leadership role at this critical time, where we know he will infuse the work with his trademark dedication, compassion, and innovative spirit.”

Dr. Nkengasong was the first director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), a specialized unit of the African Union formed in response to the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. In 2020, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation named Dr. Nkengasong a Global Goalkeeper as a “relentless proponent of global collaboration and evidence-based public health practices, and a champion for minimizing the social and economic consequences of COVID-19 across the African continent.” Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, he has remained a vocal proponent of vaccine equity and increased domestic investment in public health infrastructure — both of which are critical to the current response and to combatting future outbreaks.

A native Cameroonian and virologist by training, Dr. Nkengasong has more than three decades of experience in public health and is a leading pandemic expert and authority on implementing HIV therapy in resource-challenged settings. In addition to his role with the Africa CDC, he co-chairs the PEPFAR Laboratory Technical Working Group and is the founding chair of the board of directors for the African Society for Laboratory Medicine.