February 28, 2024

Former Africa CDC director John Nkengasong sworn in as ambassador-at-large and coordinator of the U.S. global HIV/AIDS fight. Born in Cameroon, he is the first person of African origin to hold the position

Former Africa CDC director John Nkengasong sworn in Monday, June 13, 2022, as ambassador-at-large and coordinator of the U.S. global HIV/AIDS fight
Former Africa CDC director John Nkengasong sworn in Monday, June 13, 2022, as ambassador-at-large and coordinator of the U.S. global HIV/AIDS fight

The former Africa CDC director Dr. John Nkengasong was sworn into office on Monday to serve as ambassador-at-large and coordinator of United States government activities to combat HIV/AIDS globally. Dr. Nkengasong, who was born in Cameroon, is the first person of African origin to hold the position. He was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on May 5, 2022.

“Was humbling to take the oath of office today as ⁦Ambassador at large for the U.S Global HIV/AIDS Coordinator. ⁦@PEPFAR⁩ has been a game changer in the fight against HIV/AIDS. With the power of partnerships, we can end AIDS by 2030 as a public health threat!,” Nkengasong, tweeted.

President Joseph R. Biden Jr. nominated Nkengasong for the position last September while he was still serving as the director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, a specialized technical institution of the African Union headquartered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. 

“The Ambassador-at-Large leads, manages, and oversees the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) – the largest commitment by any nation to address a single disease in history, prevent millions of HIV infections, save lives, and make progress towards ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic,” the White House said in a statement back then.

In 2017, Dr. Nkengasong was appointed as the first Director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) headquartered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

“Through his leadership, a framework for moving Africa CDC into a full autonomous health agency of the Africa Union was established. Dr. Nkengasong also led efforts to create policy frameworks to guide countries to establish and strengthen their public health institutes and defined and implemented a system to collate national surveillance data,” the State Department said in a statement.

Before serving as Africa CDC director, Nkengasong was Acting Deputy Director, Center for Global Health, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and before that the Chief of the International Laboratory Branch, Division of Global HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis at the CDC.

Nkengasong also served as the Associate Director for Laboratory Science, Division of Global AIDS/HIV and Tuberculosis, Center for Global Health, CDC, and Co-Chair of the PEPFAR’s Laboratory Technical Working Group. He has also served as a board member for the International Vaccine Initiative in New York, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation, in Norway. 

Nkengasong received his B.Sc. from the Faculty of Science, University of Yaoundé, Cameroon; his M.Sc. from the Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp, Belgium; and his Ph.D from the Faculty of Medicine, University of Brussels, Belgium. He also received a Diploma in Leadership and Management from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

He is the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions, and served as one of the World Health Organization Director General’s Special Envoys for COVID-19 since 2020. He has authored or co-authored over 250 peer-review papers and book chapters in professional journals. Dr. Nkengasong is a U.S. citizen and once confirmed, would be the first person of African origin to hold the post.

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