John Nkengasong | United States: Joe Biden nominates African virologist to lead his AIDS initiative | Africa | Globalism

President United StateJoe Biden on Monday nominated Cameroon-American virologist John Nkengasong to lead his PEPFAR AIDS initiative, making him the first person born in Africa aspiring to the position.

Nkengasong is currently the Director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), and from that institution of the African Union (AU), he has played a key role in that continent’s response to the Covid pandemic.

If confirmed by the US Senate, the virologist will continue to lead the Presidential Emergency Initiative to Fight AIDS (PEPFAR), a global program started in 2004 by then-President George W. Bush.

The White House said in a statement that Nkengasong, who was born in Cameroon but holds US citizenship, “will be the first person of African descent to hold this position” in PEPFAR’s 17-year history.

The Biden government has faced criticism from several organizations for leaving the PEPFAR coordinator position vacant months ago, a program that has not had a permanent leader since Dr. Deborah Birx left the position in February 2020 to deal with COVID-19.

In July, more than fifty organizations sent a letter to Biden describing his delay in nominating someone to the position as “unacceptable,” officially known as the Coordinator of the United States Government’s Global AIDS Action. and human immunodeficiency virus.

Biden’s announcement was welcomed by many of those organisations, including AVAC, an entity seeking to increase global interest in the fight against HIV and which described Nkengasong as “uniquely qualified” for the position.

In a statement, the AVAC particularly welcomed Biden’s selection of a person of African descent, which represents a “major step toward the goal of ensuring programs like PEPFAR continue to integrate and benefit from perspectives” in Africa, the region where there is the most work. is being done. initiative.

The fight against AIDS suffered a major setback with the epidemic, when the number of diagnoses fell due to the interruption of many health care services, according to the United Nations.

Globally, the United Nations estimates that there are about 38 million people infected with the virus, of whom 26 million are receiving treatment, while 12 million do not have access to it.

In 2019, an estimated 690,000 people worldwide died of AIDS-related problems, while 1.7 million new HIV infections were recorded.

Since the launch of the PEPFAR initiative, the US government has invested more than $85 billion in more than 50 countries and saved 20 million lives, according to estimates by the State Department.

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