Dr. John Nkengasong will provide essential leadership to U.S. flagship program to combat HIV/AIDS around the world

September 23, 2021, Washington, D.C. – The Global AIDS Policy Partnership (GAPP) applauds the intention of the Biden Administration to nominate Dr. John Nkengasong as the new U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator. The global progress made against HIV/AIDS is a testament to U.S. global health leadership. This nomination, and impending appointment, reinforces the country’s commitment to ending the epidemic as a global public health threat. The GAPP looks forward to working with such a committed scientist and clinician and deeply values his dedication to public health, and to equity in global and domestic health.

Dr. Nkengasong has a proven record as a champion in the effort to end the AIDS pandemic. In addition, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, his leadership in calling for greater vaccine access has been courageous. As Global AIDS Coordinator, he will be a vital voice both within the Biden Administration and with international and local partners. Such strong leadership is critical to stewarding the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) which has saved over 20 million lives through accountable, transparent, and cost-effective investments.

The innovations and partnerships created through PEPFAR have been and will continue to be instrumental to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. However, as Dr. Nkengasong moves into his new post, we must address the toll the past 18 months have taken, both on PEPFAR and, more specifically, on the HIV response. Vulnerable populations have paid the greatest price, not only in terms of the impact of the novel coronavirus, but also reduced access to HIV services.

Even before COVID-19, global HIV prevention goals were unacceptably off-target. For example, the recent UNAIDS report shows that pediatric treatment rates have fallen for the first time in decades. As he moves into his new role, the GAPP calls on Dr. Nkengasong to prioritize neonatal and pediatric HIV testing, treatment, and care. We also advocate for expanded programming to reach adolescent girls and young women. This includes maintaining and strengthening support for the DREAMS partnership, a key PEPFAR initiative.

As Dr. Nkengasong increases PEPFAR’s focus on young women, he also must address the growth in gender inequalities and gender-based violence around the world. Not only are these matters of human rights, but they are also impediments to ending the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Sustained investment in these areas will be critical to advancing public health, strengthening health systems, and promoting human rights around the world. The GAPP looks forward to renewed programming around integrated reproductive health service, syringe exchange services, and to the scaling up and promotion of sexual and reproductive health innovations and technologies including PrEP and the Dapivirine vaginal ring.

At this moment of global stress and uncertainty, the U.S. has a greater responsibility than ever to promote people-centered, rights-based approaches to public health, particularly when it comes to vulnerable populations. It will be critical, therefore, for Dr. Nkengasong to place an emphasis on expanding access to, and retention in, HIV prevention and treatment services for key populations that are often neglected and suffer from disproportionate rates of HIV incidence.

The GAPP and its members are committed to working with Dr. Nkengasong and the Office of U.S Global AIDS Coordinator to meet the UNAIDS goal of ending the AIDS pandemic by 2030. We welcome Dr. Nkengasong to his new role and offer our collective support and hopes for his rapid confirmation. Though the goal is ambitious, we know that, together, we are better able to achieve it.

The Global AIDS Policy Partnership is a coalition of over 70 advocacy and implementing organizations committed to expanding and improving global HIV/AIDS programming.