Dr. John N. Nkengasong was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and Special Representative for Health Diplomacy (S/GAC) May 5, 2022 and officially sworn in on June 13, 2022. In this role, Dr. Nkengasong leads, manages, and oversees the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR); which is the largest commitment by any nation to address a single disease in history, prevent millions of HIV infections, save lives, and make progress toward ending the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Born in Cameroon, Dr. Nkengasong is the first person of African origin to hold this position.
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 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. He also led the COVID-19 response in Africa, coordinating with heads of state and governments across the continent, among other achievements to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, he helped secure 400 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines at the height of vaccine scarcity. During his tenure, he was appointed as one of the World Health Organization’s special envoys on COVID-19 preparedness and response.
Dr. Nkengasong served as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Division of Global HIV and Tuberculosis’ International Laboratory Branch Chief and as the Associate Director for Laboratory Science. Subsequently, he served as Acting Deputy Director at the CDC Center for Global Health and Co-Chair of the PEPFAR’s Laboratory Technical Working Group.
As a leading virologist with over 30 years of experience in public health, Dr. Nkengasong was appointed as a board member for the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative in New York, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation, in Norway.
He 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.
Dr. Nkengasong is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards and recognitions. Most recently, he served as one of the World Health Organization Director General’s Special Envoys for COVID-19. In 2021, Dr. Nkengasong was recognized as Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People, where he was described as “a modern-day hero.” Additional awards include the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Award for excellence in Public Health Protection Research, the Shepard Award, the U.S. Director’s Recognitions Award and the William Watson Medal of Excellence, the highest recognition awarded by CDC; which was awarded for outstanding contributions and leadership in advancing global laboratory services and programs to support the PEPFAR. Most recently, Dr. Nkengasong became the first-ever laureate of the Virchow Prize for Global Health, for his dedication to improving the health and wellbeing of the world’s most vulnerable people. He has authored or co-authored over 250 peer-reviewed papers and book chapters in professional journals.