UNAIDS has appointed Winnie Byanyima as its new Executive Director. Ms Byanyima who has more than 30 years of experience in political leadership, diplomacy and humanitarian engagement was before her appointment, the Executive Director of Oxfam International.
She will replace Michel Sidibe, who left in May following allegations he mishandled sexual abuse claims at UNAIDS.
“I am honoured to be joining UNAIDS as the Executive Director at such a critical time in the response to HIV,” said Ms Byanyima in a statement issued by UNAIDS on Wednesday evening.
“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.” she added.
The United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, appointed Ms Byanyima as the UNAIDS Executive Director and United Nations Under-Secretary-General following a comprehensive selection process that involved a search committee constituted by members of the UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board. The UNAIDS Committee of Cosponsoring Organizations made the final recommendation on the appointment to the Secretary-General.
Earlier announcement to former colleagues at Oxfam
In an emotional email to Oxfam staff on Wednesday, Ms Byanyima, who is wife of Uganda’s opposition lynchpin Dr Kizza Besigye, said despite enjoying her stay, she could not turn down the UNAIDS job given her passion for spearheading the fight against HIV/AIDS that has ravaged Africa for many years.
She also revealed that her own brother, one Bernard down of the disease.
“I have been encouraged by many activists from all over the world to lead the campaign against HIV/AIDS and I realized that I couldn’t turn down the opportunity… My own brother Bernard died of AIDS..,” Ms Byanyima added.
She added that while a confidentiality agreement bars her from making a public announcement on the appointment, she said she had to let her colleagues know before UNAIDS makes a formal announcement.
Ms Byanyima wealth of experience and commitment
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. 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.
Ms Byanyima 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.