Winnie Byanyima Becomes New UNAIDS Executive Director

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Winnie Byanyima Becomes New UNAIDS Executive Director

Photographed by Alex Baker Photography/Oxfam International

On August 14, 2019, the United Nations announced that Secretary-General, António Guterres has appointed Winnie Byanyima as the new Executive Director of UNAIDS.

“I am honoured to be joining UNAIDS as the Executive Director at such a critical time in the response to HIV,” Ms. Byanyima said in a prepared statement. “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.”

Noted for her work on behalf of marginalized communities and women, Ms. Byanyima holds advanced degrees from the Cranfield Institute of Technology and the University of Manchester. She has more than thirty years of experience in political leadership, diplomacy and humanitarian engagement. She has led Oxfam International as its Executive Director since 2013. Earlier, she was the Director of Gender and Development at the United Nations Development Programme for seven years. A native of Uganda, she began her career 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 that addresses the disproportionate effect of HIV on the lives of women in Africa.

Ms. Byanyima’s experience working to ensure the human rights of people living with HIV, other marginalized communities, and women should serve her well in steering UNAIDS’s human rights-based approach to ending the epidemic. According to UNAIDS, “Rights-based approaches create an enabling environment for successful HIV responses and affirm the dignity of people living with, or vulnerable to, HIV.” United Nations Members States have pledged to leave no one behind and to end the HIV, tuberculosis and malaria epidemics by 2030. That will require addressing stigma, discrimination, and other legal, human rights, social and gender-related barriers to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services.

Ms. Byanyima’s challenge will be to meet those goals.

—Reporting by Hank Trout


Hank Trout, Senior Editor, edited Drummer, Malebox, and Folsom magazines in the early 1980s. A long-term survivor of HIV/AIDS (diagnosed in 1989), he is a forty-year resident of San Francisco, where he lives with his fiancé Rick. Follow him on Twitter @HankTroutWriter.