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U.S President Joe Biden turns to Cameroonian virologist in fight against AIDS

By Augustine Nyuykongi

Dr. John Nkengasong, a Cameroonian Virologist and outgoing Director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Africa CDC is in line to be nominated by U.S President Joe Biden as the Coordinator of the U.S Government activities to combat HIV/AIDS globally.

With his nomination, Dr. Nkengasong will hold a position in the Department of state and serve as an Ambassador-at-large.

Having repeatedly pushed for more tests, vaccination, and life-saving equipment for Africa since the beginning of Covid-19, he has received wide plaudits which boosted his nomination.

Dr. Nkengasong is a founding Director of the Africa CDC, launched in 2017 as part of the African Union. It rose to prominence during the Covid-19 pandemic, acting as a coordinating body for the continental response against the virus.

It has also worked with several African countries to secure tests, boost laboratory capacity, manage outbreaks, and access vaccines.

Commenting on his nomination by the American President, Dr. Nkengasong said he is “truly honored and humbled to have been selected…I thank the Biden-Harris administration for having the confidence in their intent to nominate me,” he said.

In his new role, Dr. Nkengasong will be expected to lead, manage, and oversee the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). He will equally become the first person of African origin to hold the position.

The virologist has close to 30 years of experience in working on HIV/AIDS. Before he worked with the Africa CDC, he amongst other things, oversaw the construction of one of the most sophisticated laboratories for HIV in sub-Saharan Africa in Ivory Coast, while working at the field station of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the mid-1990s.

Leaving his position as the Director for Africa CDC, Dr. Nkengasong has spoken on his optimism in the leadership qualities within the organization capable of propelling it forward without him.

“Africa CDC, I’m very proud to say, has a very strong leadership team. … I was very deliberate in that there is a whole layer of leaders that emerged to carry the organization forward.”

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