“It’s an extremely difficult decision,” admits Dr. John Nkengasong. We are at the end of May. While his colleagues are preparing his farewell drink, the virologist, his wife and their three children are in the boxes. Goodbye Addis Ababa, hello Washington, home of the United States President’s Emergency Program against HIV (PEPFAR, in English), of which the Cameroonian scientist has agreed to take the lead. A logical decision, almost a return to basics for a man who devoted himself to the fight against AIDS in 1988, under the impetus of the Cameroonian professor of immunology, Peter Ndumbe.
Cameroonian John Nkengasong, from the African Union to the Biden administration
“Nearly 500,000 people died of HIV last year in Africa,” recalls John Nkengasong. It’s a lot. The HIV pandemic – I use the word pandemic deliberately – is far from over. The choice to leave was nevertheless difficult, continues the man who, at the head of Africa CDC, the public health agency of the African Union, has coordinated since the beginning of 2020 the continental response to Covid-19. 19. The coronavirus remains a menace in Africa, it is obvious, but the doctor has made his choice: it will be Washington and the fight against AIDS at the head of a program, PEPFAR, created in 2003 by George Bush and which has since invested nearly 100 billion dollars in the fight against the disease, mainly in Africa.
Coming from an English-speaking family in the south-west of Cameroon, John Nkengasong was born in a village in the department of Lebialem and began his education in the town of Kumba. Finding his way very early on, he left to study virology at the University of Yaoundé, where he learned le French.