Healthcare

Biden nominates head of Africa CDC to lead global AIDS response

President Biden plans to nominate John Nkengasong, the director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to serve as the State Department's global AIDS coordinator, the White House announced on Monday.

If confirmed, Nkengasong, a leading virologist, would be the first person of African origin to hold the position. He would be responsible for managing the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, a multibillion-dollar initiative to fight HIV and AIDS globally that was launched in 2003 under former President George W. Bush.

The last person to serve in the role, which has the rank of ambassador, in a permanent capacity was Deborah Birx, an Obama appointee who memorably moved to the White House under then-President Trump to serve as the coronavirus response coordinator. Birx retired from government after the Biden transition period.

Angeli Achrekar is currently serving as the acting global AIDS coordinator and special representative for global health diplomacy at the State Department. 

Nkengasong's current position is headquartered in Ethiopia. Last year, he was also named by the World Health Organization as one of seven special envoys for COVID-19 preparedness and response. He previously worked for the CDC in various roles.

The role is subject to Senate confirmation, meaning that a simple majority of senators will need to vote to approve Nkengasong for him to fill the position. Democrats hold a one-vote edge in the 50-50 Senate, with Vice President Harris casting the tiebreaking vote.

The New York Times reported last week on Nkengasong's forthcoming nomination.

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