UNAIDS appoints new Executive Director

Winnie Byanyima [Photo: Softpower]
Winnie Byanyima [Photo: Softpower]

Winnie Byanyima has been appointed as the new Executive Director of UNAIDS and will also double as the United Nations Under-Secretary-General.

According to a press statement by the agency, Ms Byanyima was appointed by the United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Gutteres.

The appointment was following a comprehensive selection process that involved a search committee constituted by members of the UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board, the statement said.

The position was keenly contested among five global health experts, of which one of the contestants was a Nigerian, Sani Aliyu.

Mr Aliyu was the former Director-General of the agency in charge of HIV/AIDS control in Nigeria, NACA, before resigning last month to join the race.

Although Mr Aliyu got a great recommendation on his performance while at the helm of affairs of the HIV control agency, he was one of the four not considered.

The other contestants were, Salim Abdool Karim, Director of the Centre for the AIDS Program of Research (CAPRISA), South Africa; Chris Beyrer, Professor of Epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; and Bernard Haufiku, the former Minister of Health and Social Services of Namibia. He is also a medical doctor and currently the health adviser to Namibia’s deputy president.

The appointment of Ms Byanyima was recommended by the UNAIDS committee of sponsoring organisations.

The committee made the final recommendation on the appointment to the Secretary-General.


According to the agency, Ms Byanyima has more than 30 years of experience in political leadership, diplomacy and humanitarian engagement.

Ms Byanyima brings a wealth of experience and commitment in harnessing the power of governments, multilateral agencies, the private sector and civil society to end the AIDS epidemic around the world.

Read also: Why I can’t stop challenging injustice – Soyinka

Ms Byanyima has been the Executive Director of Oxfam International since 2013. Prior to that, she served for seven years as the Director of Gender and Development at the United Nations Development Programme.

She began her career as a champion of marginalized communities and women 30 years ago as a member of parliament in the National Assembly of Uganda.

In 2004, she became the Director of Women and Development at the African Union Commission, working on the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, an international human rights instrument that became an important tool for reducing the disproportionate effect of HIV on the lives of women in Africa.

She holds an advanced degree in mechanical engineering (in energy conservation and the environment) from the Cranfield Institute of Technology and an undergraduate degree in aeronautical engineering from the University of Manchester.


Ms Byanyima reportedly appreciated her appointment and pledged to continue to work towards eradicating HIV globally.

“I am honoured to be joining UNAIDS as the Executive Director at such a critical time in the response to HIV. The end of AIDS as a public health threat by 2030 is a goal that is within the world’s reach, but I do not underestimate the scale of the challenge ahead.

“Working with all its partners, UNAIDS must continue to speak up for the people left behind and champion human rights as the only way to end the epidemic.”


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