AVAC Applauds the Selection of John Nkengasong as PEPFAR’s New Leader

AVAC applauds the Biden-Harris Administration on the nomination of John Nkengasong, a bold and inspiring choice, as the next US Global AIDS Coordinator to head the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), one of the most dynamic and effective foreign assistance programs ever developed.

Through four presidential administrations, PEPFAR has provided lifesaving HIV treatment to more than 18 million people in 50 countries and ensured access to prevention for tens of millions more. John Nkengasong is the right person at the right time to lead a program that has demonstrated its unique and unmatched value in the global AIDS response, but which also faces significant challenges in the future.

“John is exceptionally well qualified to confront those challenges, including increasing PEPFAR’s impact in the face of COVID-19 and building a foundation for pandemic preparedness and global health equity,” said AVAC Executive Director Mitchell Warren. “He is a highly accomplished scientist and administrator, known and respected in both the global North and South, with a strong commitment to global health equity. His work in establishing the African Society for Laboratory Medicine provided a critical foundation for PEPFAR effectiveness, and the rapid response to COVID under his leadership of the Africa CDC has been a shining light in the global pandemic response.”

“PEPFAR has been conceived as a partnership with other governments and communities, and Dr. Nkengasong has shown in his leadership at the Africa CDC that this is core to his approach. And hopefully his connections, relationships and track-record will help PEPFAR move even further and faster to ensure mutual accountability, co-financing with local governments and sustainability in building health infrastructure for HIV and pandemic response and prevention generally,” said Warren.

As the first person of African origin nominated for this position, John’s appointment also represents a major step toward the goal of ensuring that programs such as PEPFAR continue to incorporate and benefit from the perspectives and leadership of people from the regions in which these programs work.

“John has the passion, vision and experience to build on the noteworthy accomplishments of his predecessors and the unyielding commitment to following the data and engaging communities of current Acting US Global AIDS Coordinator Angeli Achrekar,” said Warren. “AVAC welcomes John’s appointment to this critical post and looks forward to working with him toward our shared goals of ending the AIDS pandemic and ensuring global health equity.”

Apply to Be an AVAC Fellow

For more than a decade AVAC Fellows have been building a movement for choices, access and equity in HIV prevention, from research to rollout. 77 Fellows and 67 partner organizations from 14 countries have put HIV prevention on the map since 2009. AVAC is currently accepting applications until October 12th for the 2022 class of Fellows. Bring HIV prevention home, apply here.

Advocates’ Resources for #UNGA76: COVID19 Prevention and Pandemic Preparedness

Today, world leaders attending the 76th United Nations General Assembly (#UNGA76) will join a US-convened Global COVID-19 Summit. While this meeting will tackle key decisions about how the world will respond to COVID-19, including targets for vaccination, oxygen, diagnostics, personal protective equipment (PPE) and financing, this meeting must also set an action plan for global pandemic preparedness for years, and even decades, to come.

Commitments and targets this week must translate into actions and accountability mechanisms that lay the groundwork for integrated, equitable and coordinated responses for COVID-19 today and future pandemics of tomorrow.

Below you will find resources on the issues that AVAC and partners have been advancing in the hope for equitable and resilient global health in the months and years ahead. Join us as we advocate for action now!

Framework for a Global Action Plan for COVID-19 Response

The global COVID-19 crisis demands leadership and a global plan of attack. A coordinated, global response must be grounded in equity at all levels – global, regional, national, subnational and community. A robust and effective response to the current crisis is also the best foundation for strengthening health systems and for future pandemic preparedness. At today’s “Global COVID-19 Summit: Ending the Pandemic and Building Back Better,” leaders must commit to the actions detailed in the Framework For a Global Action Plan for COVID-19 Response developed by the Pandemic Action Network and strongly supported by AVAC and partners. Read the full Framework here.

Ensuring #VaccinEquity

Breaking the Bottlenecks to COVID19 Vaccine Access identifies the critical steps to ensure global vaccine equity. Multiple factors are contributing to bottlenecks in the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines, and ensuring equitable global access will require multiple, simultaneous policy approaches: vaccine donations PLUS suspending patents PLUS technology transfer PLUS building manufacturing capacity PLUS ensuring easy access to raw materials.

Scaling Up Capacity

Calling on the Biden Administration to Scale Up mRNA Vaccine Manufacturing Capacity — This joint letter with more than 100 cosigners calls on the US administration to rapidly scale up mRNA vaccine manufacturing capacity to reach approximately 4 billion people by the end of 2021.

Funding for Resilient Health Systems

The Global Fund: A foundation for health equity — AVAC and partners have called on the US administration to lead a movement to reimagine the Global Fund and its potential in serving as the global funding mechanism for transforming health systems around the world to meet the challenge of COVID-19 and future pandemics.

Whether the next global pandemic lies years in the future or just months down the road, the time is now. We call on world leaders this week to translate commitments and targets into action plans.

PGG: Lay providers deliver PrEP in Thailand

The latest entry in the Protecting Global Gains series, In Thailand, Telehealth Moves PrEP Out of the HIV Clinic, profiles how Thailand trained lay providers—health workers without formal medical certifications—adapted to offer PrEP at community clinics nationwide during the pandemic.

The lockdowns and social distance protocols triggered by COVID-19 have led to devastating disruptions to health services in Thailand and around the world. Many countries report as many as 75 percent of their HIV services, including PrEP, have been impaired. Yet, flexibility and adaptability have paid dividends for connecting people to HIV prevention services. This update from Thailand explores a model of PrEP delivery in which lay providers relied on virtual consultations with medical staff to connect clients to a one-month supply of PrEP, and how this model proved instrumental to sustaining access to PrEP during COVID-19.

This model from Thailand, pioneered by the Bangkok-based Institute for HIV Research and Innovation (IHRI), demonstrates one more case of innovation. Other case studies, highlighted on the PGG website, show how health services that are community-centered and client-focused are especially resilient, able to quickly solve problems, sustain effective care, and minimize disruptions from the impact of COVID-19 and protecting lives.

Follow the Protecting Global Gains series on social media at @hivpxresearch, @theglobalfight, @Amref_Worldwide and #ProtectingGlobalGains, and consider amplifying these stories on your own social media. Advocates can call for national and international action to support the Global Fund’s COVID-19 response and for continued investment to end the TB epidemic. Visit www.protectingglobalgains.org to learn more about how to take action.

New Resources and Opportunities from AVAC

We have a number of new resources and opportunities!

Apply to Be an AVAC Fellow

AVAC is accepting applications—due October 12—for the next cadre of Advocacy Fellows! Learn more about this vanguard program for advocates, who have gone on to lead and advance HIV prevention advocacy for more than a decade. Read more about the work and achievements of past Fellows, check out recordings from the info sessions, and learn why this program earns testimonials like this one from a longtime colleague in the field of HIV prevention, Shaun Mellors: “This is probably one of the more effective & powerhouse fellowship programmes that I have experienced. Are you an emerging or mid-career advocate interested in HIV prevention? Then this is definitely for you!”

PEPFAR & Global Fund: Looking forward

AVAC, partners and a broad swath of civil society from southern and eastern Africa have issued seven key priorities that should guide the development of PEPFAR strategy to 2025, with specific recommendations for each. Read all about it on our blog: AVAC and Partners Seek to Influence PEPFAR 2021-25 Strategy and Accelerate Impactful Key Population Programming.

And read this Devex.com opinion piece by Mitchell Warren and Carlos del Rio on why US leadership matters in fighting AIDS.

For an overview of how PEPFAR has approached the provision of prevention services during the pandemic, watch the September 10 webinar from AVAC and the Global AIDS Policy Partnership, Innovations and Challenges of PEPFAR Prevention Programming During the COVID-19 Pandemic.

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has similarly responded to the challenges stemming from COVID-19 with innovation. AVAC worked with RESULTS, Health GAP, Partners in Health, Treatment Action Group, and Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to demonstrate why the Global Fund is the best-situated funding mechanism to scale up investments in health systems. This investment is essential for global pandemic preparedness that is rooted in a vision of global health solidarity.

Check out this new report from the Global Fund on the impact of COVID-19 on HIV, TB and Malaria, The Results Report. And for a quick take on the report, go to this New York Times article, which includes comments from AVAC’s executive director.

The Imbokodo HIV Vaccine Trial Finds No Significant Efficacy, So What’s Next?

Johnson & Johnson and partners announced that the Imbokodo study, a large-scale HIV vaccine proof-of-concept trial, also known as HVTN 705/HPX2008, did not significantly reduce the overall risk of HIV acquisition. Watch AVAC’s September 9 webinar, Imbokodo Vaccine Trial Results and Implications for the Field—A Global Discussion, where the trial’s leaders and advocates discuss what the results mean and how they will inform future research.

AVAC’s statement on the Imbokodo trial, HIV Vaccine Research Must Continue Following Disappointing Result from Imbokodo Trial, calls for a comprehensive strategy for HIV vaccine research that takes into account a wealth of lessons learned in the last 18 months. And check out AVAC’s Nandi Luthuli and Mitchell Warren talking about the results and their implications in The Body: The Latest Big HIV Vaccine Disappointment Means We Must Double Down on Other Prevention Methods.


AVAC has updated two of our graphics, both timelines of large-scale prevention trials. The Years Ahead in Biomedical HIV Prevention Research offers details such as study population, locations and the status of large-scale prevention trials through 2024. Years Ahead in HIV Prevention Research: Time to Market is a streamlined version of products on the path licensure.

Coming Up!

From AVAC and AIDS Foundation of Chicago, next up in the webinar series on the HIV prevention pipeline of research and development: Can Fantasies Become Realities? The Quest for Multi-purpose Prevention Products. Register for this October 13 webinar, 10am ET / 3pm SAST / 4pm EAT, to learn more about research on strategies that simultaneously protect against two or more things, such as HIV and pregnancy, or two different sexually transmitted diseases.

AVAC and Partners Seek to Influence PEPFAR 2021-25 Strategy and Accelerate Impactful Key Population Programming

The last PEPFAR strategy 2017-2021 announced in 2017 by then-Secretary of State Tillerson was a brief document outlining a strategy for thirteen priority countries. Its announcement came as a surprise to many since it had been developed without civil engagement. That strategy was due to expire at the end of 2020, therefore, PEPFAR responded to advocates, including AVAC, COMPASS partners and the Global AIDS Policy Partnership, by calling for a more robust stakeholder engagement process as it develops its updated strategy. PEPFAR convened a series of stakeholder “listening sessions” and called for responses to key questions in a survey.

PEPFAR’s priorities are critical to global and national efforts to end the HIV/AIDS pandemic. As the largest funder of HIV/AIDS programming in the world, PEPFAR has the power and opportunity to move the dial. It’s no surprise that a large number of AVAC partners and other civil society organizations in Eastern and Southern Africa heard the call for comments and suggestions for the new strategy—and responded. That response, formulated into seven key priorities, was delivered this week to PEPFAR in a statement entitled Seven Global Civil Society Priorities for the 2021-2025 President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) Strategy. The seven priorities are:

  1. Fix PEPFAR’s Leadership Vacuum by nominating a qualified, world-class leader to run PEPFAR.
  2. Repair harms from COVID-19 by establishing an ambitious set of targets for treatment, prevention, and human rights. These targets must aim at a rapid recovery from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and return to pre-pandemic levels and beyond.
  3. Reject a Zero-Sum approach to defeating pandemics. There must be a broader US government platform for other health issues while maintaining PEPFAR’s focus on HIV.
  4. Prioritize ending AIDS deaths which are unacceptably high.
  5. Meaningfully involve communities at all levels of PEPFAR planning and implementation.
  6. Create a new strategic Initiative for key populations. This initiative must include innovative ways to fund interventions that address structural barriers with human rights-centred programming. (An additional document, created in partnership with Health GAP and PEPFAR Watch, focused specifically on Where is PEPFAR’s Strategy for Key Populations?.)
  7. Heighten focus and investment on the prevention gap.

The statement includes specific recommendations for each of these priorities and is signed by nearly 200 civil society organizations. AVAC and partners will be looking at the new strategy when it is released, possibly even this month, to see how our priorities are reflected in the final document.

Next-Generation AVAC Fellows: A call for 2022 applications

AVAC is now inviting applications for its 2022 Advocacy Fellows Program. Read on for more about the program, what’s new in 2022, application details and upcoming informational calls.

The application deadline is October 12, 2021.

AVAC’s Advocacy Fellows Program aims to expand and strengthen the capacity of civil society advocates and organizations to monitor, support and help shape HIV prevention research and rapid rollout of new effective interventions in low- and middle-income countries with high HIV burdens. At AVAC, we believe the most effective and sustainable advocacy integrates the interests and priorities of individuals and organizations, and prioritizes resilient partnerships. The Fellows program is guided by these principles.

Projects address locally identified gaps and priorities. Fellows receive training, full-time financial support and technical assistance to plan and implement a targeted 18-month project within host organizations working in HIV or related advocacy. Host organizations are critical partners in the program. Fellows’ projects can be an opportunity for an organization to further develop its own work in HIV prevention advocacy.

Since launching in 2009, 77 Fellows and 67 partner organizations from 14 countries have participated in the program. They have gone on to change policy, champion community perspectives, help strengthen healthcare systems, demystify HIV prevention research, and insist on fairness and transparency locally, regionally and globally. Read more about the work and achievements of past Fellows.

What’s New for the 2022 Program
The 2022 program reflects an intensive independent review of the program’s impact and contribution over the last decade. Responding to the recommendations from current and alumni Fellows and Hosts, AVAC is expanding the role of alumni support to Fellows in their countries; strengthening partnerships and capacity building with Host organizations; increasing support to Fellows in countries that do not have alumni networks; expanding training to prepare for post-Fellowship transitions; and increasing the Fellowship length to 18 months.

While HIV biomedical prevention advocacy will continue to be the focus, we encourage a strong focus on health equity, structural issues and linkages to COVID-19 and TB prevention efforts.

Priority will be given to applications from Eastern and Southern Africa where biomedical HIV prevention research is planned or ongoing or where there is an urgent need for the delivery or scale-up of proven biomedical interventions. To see where HIV research and rollout is being conducted, visit the Prevention & Research database and the Trial Map.

HIV Prevention Research Advocacy Fellows are:

  • Emerging or mid-career community leaders and advocates interested in strengthening their advocacy skills and advocating for HIV prevention. While the primary focus is on HIV biomedical prevention interventions, applicants can also incorporate advocacy that includes COVID-19 and TB prevention.
  • Individuals with experience or education in HIV and/or COVID-19 or other areas of public health, or in advocacy for key populations, such as sex workers, LGBTQ individuals and drug users, or in advocacy for social and economic justice.
  • Individuals based in low- and middle-income countries with high HIV burdens and where HIV prevention research is ongoing or where new interventions are being introduced. Please note that for 2022 fellowships, the priority focus is on Eastern and Southern Africa.
  • Proficient in written and spoken English.

Learn More
Prospective applicants or host organizations who want to learn more or have questions are encouraged to:

Applications are due by OCTOBER 12, 2021, and 2022 Fellowships will run from April 2022 through Sept 2023.

Please share this information with your networks, and we look forward to receiving your application.