Biden to name African-born doctor to lead HIV/AIDS response

Health

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden said Monday that he intends to nominate Dr. John N. Nkengasong to coordinate the U.S. response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic worldwide.

Nkengasong, a U.S. citizen born in Cameroon, would be the first person of African descent to hold the position. The Senate must approve his eventual nomination.

If confirmed, Nkengasong would become an ambassador-at-large at the State Department, overseeing the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR. The position most recently was held by Dr. Deborah Birx, who in 2020 became coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force under then-President Donald Trump. Birx left government after Biden took office.

Nkengasong, a virologist, currently directs the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, a specialized technical institution of the African Union based in Ethiopia.

Through PEPFAR, which was created by President George W. Bush in 2003, the U.S. has invested more than $85 billion in the global response to HIV/AIDS, the largest commitment by any nation to a single disease. The State Department credits the initiative with saving over 20 million lives and preventing millions of HIV infections.

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